Penny Candy, Italian Style
If you can remember choosing a nickel or dime’s worth of penny candy from the jars displayed at the neighborhood shop you are giving away your age. Just hearing their names is a nostalgia trip: red coated peanuts known as Boston baked beans, wax lips and bottles filled with syrupy liquid, candy buttons on a strip of paper, chewy Mary Janes, good & plenty licorice and chocolate flavored tootsie rolls.
Here in Italy the local version of penny candy can found at fairs and markets all over the country. At the recent Sant’Antonio fair held each year in Vetralla on January 17th , among the hundreds of
bancarelle (stalls) selling every conceivable merchandise, several belonged to vendors of dried fruit and sweets from Vallerano and Canepina. They travel so far and wide that tradition says when Columbus arrived in the New World, there was one of these stalls waiting for him.
The colorful but nameless candies are displayed next to dried figs, chestnuts, and
pepperoncino too! You might as well pick some up for the pasta while buying candies for junior. You’ll also find imported spices and fruits; banana, pineapple, and even cranberries, an exclusively North American plant. Perhaps the New World vendors sent some back with Columbus on his return trip…
Italian Notebook’s first correspondent has been busy lately finishing up the manuscript of her new book “1860 – The Irish and English in Garibaldi’s Italy” and is looking for an agent/publisher.
Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.
See her award winning website
www.elegantetruria.com and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.