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GORGEOUS ITALIAN EASTER SWEETS

The Sun, April 22, 1906 - Easter cakes and sweetmeats cost the Italian colony of New York thousands of dollars and untold indigestion. Not even the bakers and pastry cooks of the Gorman quarter, with their fifty kinds of sweetcake and their monstrous rabbits in gingerbread and white sugar, made such a display as did the Italian colony. For the last two weeks of Lent the Italian confectioners and pastry cooks were busy night and day in producing their astonishing creations. Sugar and eggs, macaroni and cheese, marchpane, butter, candied fruits, preserved ginger and a dozen flavoring extracts went to the making of the Easter sweetmeats.

All these things are as gorgeous and varied in color as they are rich and complex in composition. They are decorated in malignant yellows, vicious looking greens, blues to make a man shiver and unwholesome reds, purples and violets.

The worst of these colors suggest nothing so much as cold poison. The coloring is all the worse from the fact that few Italian confectioners pay much regard to chromatic harmony and the window display of a pastry cook in the Italian quarter is a thing to make the rash gazer wipe his eye.

Designs are even more astonishingly varied than colors in the Easter confections of the Italians. Every fruit known to civilized man is simulated in sugar or marchpane. There are pale green fresh figs, purple ripe figs, prickly pears in rich yellow spotted with dark brown, great chunks of watermelon with the red heart, the green and white rind and the glittering black seeds, apples, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, even onions.

After the fruits come articles great and small of almost every conceivable shape. There are gaily clad dancing girls in black dominos, soldiers in full uniform, old women in caps, gigantic smiling faces of gross or ridicolous old men. The paschal lamb appears in many guises. His fleece ss simulated in sugar and egg and sometimes colored a brilliant yellow.

There are saints and cupids, angels, cherubs, great cornucopias, horses, cattle, dogs, almost any beast you please. Then there are enormous cakes ornamented with thick icing and surmounted with figures of a hundred different shapes. The pastry cooks fairly exhaust themselves in inventing new and strange designs for the decoration of these cakes. Some are heart shaped, others diamond shaped, others like harps. The crowning glory of the festive season is the Easter pie. It is no mere tart, but a thing surpassing in depth and diameter the biggest pumpkin pie of New England. As to the ingredients, they are numerous and strange.

Cheese, eggs and macaroni, with sweet wines, go to make some Easter pies. Others contain many fruits, still others are partly of mincemeat. Some are iced half an inch thick. Others are spread thick with sugary paste, still others dusted with finely crumbled marchpane. The smallest are six or eight inches in diameter and an inch and a half deep, the largest are nearly eighteen inches in diameter and three or four inches deep. These pies are largely made for presents. Many or them have friendly sentiments written upon them in white sugar or in a brilliant color. The giver wishes the recipient health, long life, happiness, wordly wealth -- every sort of good fortune.

Only the poorest Italian families go without pie or sweetmeats at Easter. The cheapest of the pies cost 50 or 60 cents, the most expensive as much $5. Those who cannot afford pie are pretty sure to have on the Easter dinner table some piece of confection appropriate to the occasion, a glittering thing in red or yellow, and the extravagance of even the laboring Italian at Easter is a marvel to the ordinary American mechanic of comfortable income. Some families of very moderate means add to the Easter dinner bunches of choice white Spanish grapes, and the fruit merchants carefully guard in their cellars a few kegs of such grapes against the demand of the Easter season.

Like the Holy Thursday miracle play and some other characteristic Italian institutions, the Easter pie and the display of Easter sweetmeats are matters of comparatively recent introduction in the Italian colony of New York. The growing demand that justifies the exertion of the pastry cooks and the actual importation of skilled confectioners from Italy comes from the increasing wealth and numbers of the Italian population.

IMAGE:

Pastry by Veniero's, http://venierospastry.com