my italian grandmother always said her birthday was on the first day of spring. actually, every so often she was right; her birthday was march 21st, and spring is usually on march 20th, but not always:(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox). one sure sign that spring had come when i was little was The Making of the Dandelion Salad. my grandmother would send me out into the yard to gather dandelion leaves. this wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds. there were rules that must be followed:
1. leaves must be chosen from plants that had not yet flowered, otherwise they would be too bitter. 2. you had to look for plants that were far from the road, otherwise the exhaust from passing cars would poison them 3. leaves must be washed at least 3 times, because they were pretty dirty, what with actual dirt, plus who knew what manner of animal had befouled the leaves in some manner? 4. the salad must always have olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper for dressing. that’s it.
as i’m writing this, i realize one of the implicit gifts from this practice: nana always told me why i was being asked to do something a certain way. that was as important to me when i was 10 as it is to me now.
do you have any rituals from childhood that you remember? do you still practice any of them? who was an unsung hero in your childhood?