Life Lessons

“Cannolis!” Michael exclaimed, seeing them stacked behind the glass.

“Eh,” I said.

“What do you mean, ‘eh’? You love cannolis.”

“But those are pre-filled,” I explained


“So who knows how long ago they filled them. The shells are probably soggy by now.”

And so it was that I taught Michael one of the most important lessons my father ever taught us: never buy pre-filled cannolis.

“In fact,” I explained to Michael, “If they have pre-filled cannolis, they’re probably not a good pastry shop. So just walk away.”

And that’s what I did.

So yesterday, when I saw the sign for a “Cannoleria,” I tried not to get my hopes up. Could Spaniards really get cannolis right? Then I remembered all the Italians that live here. So I walked in and was thrilled to see the telltale sign: a pyramid of empty cannoli shells.

Using this as an opportunity to practice my Spanish, I learned that the pastries were made in-house. By a Sicilian.

(Sicilians are a whole other breed of Italian. But thankfully that’s not an issue when it comes to cannolis.)

I ordered myself two mini-cannolis. The man behind the counter pulled out a pastry bag and filled one side and then the other. He asked something in Spanish I didn’t understand, but then he pointed to the silver tubs filled with mini-chocolate chips.

“Si, ciocolatta por favor,” I said.

I sat at the counter and savored the moment. A single moment. Maybe two. It doesn’t take long for me to eat cannolis. Wouldn’t want that shell to get soggy. . .

I ordered a full-size cannoli to-go for Michael. When I got home and showed it to him with great joy, my smile faded when he said he didn’t want it “right now.”

I didn’t mention it had already been sitting in my bag for an hour. . . the delicacy of the shell. I just put it on the kitchen counter hoping he’d remember our trip to the Italian pastry shop of my childhood.

La Deliziosa sits in what used to be the Italian section of Poughkeepsie, New York. And when we were lucky, after church, Mom granted permission for Dad to take us over there and get pastries. It is there that I learned how to say “sfogliatella” (sfuh-ya-dell) and it was there that Dad taught us that most important lesson of Italian descendents the world over.

“See?” I said to Michael when I brought him there. I pointed to the empty pastry shells. We watched as they filled them with the wonderment that is cannoli cream, sprinkled them with confectionners sugar, and placed them, ever so gently, in that white box. They then pulled the red and white string from the contraption above the counter, used it to tie the box, then “cut” the string by simply pulling it between their fingers.

Did Michael remember any of this?

An hour later, when my gifted cannoli was still sitting on the counter, I moved it to the fridge. Cannolis are best enjoyed at room temperature, but things were getting critical. I needed to preserve the freshness of the cream.

This morning, in the middle of writing this blog post, I thought, “Well, if it’s still in the fridge the shell is ruined, but at least I can savor the cream.”

I opened the fridge and searched. No box. I was a little sad that my breakfast would not include that delicious sweetness of my childhood. But then I smiled. Maybe I had taught Michael something after all.

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