It is a rare thing for me to speak badly of anything in the culinary line in Tuscany, but in the past month, I have been presented with enough little toile packets of sugared almonds of varying quality, pink ones, white ones, lurid green 'pistacchio' flavoured ones, 'green-apple', 'pineapple' (the new season's offerings), to bring on a serious sugar high. And that's without even risking a tooth by crunching into one.
These sickly little frilly packets, are a 'must-have' ingredient of the Holy Comunion celebratory lunch in Tuscany. Along with the colour-co-ordinated ribbons, the ceramic spoons, mini silver objects and plastic cubes. Accessories, in short to suit every budget.
These are often accompanied by a colour-matched silicone looking (and tasting) sugar-iced cake surmounted by a plastic statue of little Cosimo or Clara. And just incase luncheon guests should forget the name of the 10 year old family member being feasted, his or her name is blazened around it in neon tinted confectioners icing. It is of course, all for the sake of the photographs; so that little Cosimo and Clara will, in future years, presumably be able to look back on their special occasion? More probably, it's all done for sharing with social media groups. Oh and by the way, this tribute to the art of plastic-sugar moulding, is actually intended to be eaten. It very rarely is. If it does, it remains firmly glued to plates. No-one, quite understandably in my opinion, has the courage to actually taste it.
A tremendous earnestness and sincere stress on the part of the parents, accompanies the planning of these festive occasions; luncheon menu, location, table decorations, photographs, favours. Judging by mamma's and little Clara's fashion-conscious outfits, the stress presumably and seriously, spills over into 'il shopping'. For all the world, just like a small-scale wedding. For a 10 year old.
Long gone are the days when this solemn religious occasion was celebrated in the family with a cup of hot chocolate and a home-made cake. Well, not so very 'long-gone': my Florentine husband remembers the hot chocolate! Budgets these days, are certainly more ambitious than a mug of hot chocolate per head. Loans are often negotiated and presumably paid off just in time for the 'real-thing' wedding.
These grand lunches are, however, happy family occasions and I feel just an itsy-bit disloyal to question the tackier elements that have sugared over the solemnity of the rite of religious passage. In this country renowned for impeccable taste, culture, time-honoured traditions, and of course fabulous cuisine, I have never been able to conciliate this contemporary development. One thing is for sure though; Holy Comunions are big business.