Friday, July 28, 2006
In my family food lore, Those Things have attained legendary status.
Truly, any item whose main components are dough and anchovies will achieve legendary status among us, since those are pretty much our favorite foods, in order. Add paprika and crushed red pepper, as one does when making Those Things, and how could a person not become hooked? (There is also a cheese version, but we purists don't count that one. And I must admit that as a kid I would only eat the plain no-anchovy variety, but you know -- I was a kid.)
So yes, that is their name: Those Things. I have early memories of being at my grandmother's house in New Haven and thinking, Is that really what they're called?
But let's back up. It is believed that my grandmother and/or her brother invented Those Things way back when, in a fit of kitchen inspiration. Store-bought pizza dough was stretched out into a rectangle, anchovies were dumped on top along with red pepper and paprika, the dough was rolled and sliced and baked, and -- ecco! -- Those Things were born, destined for glory.
The name probably developed something like this. (Note: Anchovies are known as alici to many Italians; there's another word as well, but we won't bother with that. The Neapolitan dialect version of alici sounds like "alleezge.") Someone in or around my grandma's house went, "Hey, are there any more of those allezge things?" And it stuck.
My Aunt Grace, who made Those Things pictured here, has been the official carrier of the torch since my grandmother departed. She gets extra points for torturing me. As she walked in the door of my folks' Vermont place for our reunion, hauling several bags of what was clearly food, I pounced: "Did you make Those Things, Aunt Grace?" I'd told myself to play it cool over and over, but as soon as I saw her the words just came out.
She said, "Oh! I was cooking for hours and making the crab dip and there was so much stuff and I was so hot and I just didn't have time. Are you mad?"
"You're damn right I'm mad," I almost said. She knew where I stood; I needed Those Things. I'd begged her for them the last two times I'd seen her. "No, Aunt Grace, I understand," I managed to say, thank goodness.
And then I looked on the counter, and there they were.
They'd been made the day before and were developing that special jaw-tiring chewiness that marks day-old Those Things. And Grace hadn't held back with the anchovies or the pepper, bless her heart. We all pretty much just stood around the tray until they were gone, and I think even my aunt was surprised by how nobody could really think about or talk about anything else. We all laughed at her when she suggested giving them a "real" name: anchovy roll-ups. "They already have a name!" was the unison chant.
Postscript: My cousin Matt arrived too late, and I felt the guilt trip bad. I should have saved him a couple. Or one. Oh, who am I kidding. Come early for Those Things or you're sure to miss out.