Thursday, January 1, 2009

Strufoli in Los Angeles

Every year, there it was: the pyramid of dough balls, piled high and drizzled with honey, sprinkled (I think) with colored nonpareils.  Strufoli.  The traditional Italian holiday dessert rose from the middle of the refreshments table at the R's annual New Year's Eve party.  Each year we lived in Los Angeles (in the early 1980s), we looked forward to the invitation; we always made sure to attend.  The R's had a daughter my age, and we went to the same school.  I spent a lot of time at their house, slept over pretty often, and could usually count on at least three things around their dinner table: pasta, hand gestures, and a no-holds-barred argument worthy of any Sicilian family.  The R's were a slice of Brooklyn in L.A.  The party was a costume party, and we'd dress up.  One year, a "family heritage year," my father wandered around in moonshine attire (mind you, these were Reagan years; the Clintons had yet to turn "hillbilly" into DC vogue); my mom dressed like a Greek sailor and clicked her komboloi (worry beads), and me... well, I looked like a complete idiot dressed as some poor antebellum relation of Scarlett O'Hara.  I was in those preteen years, and my friend and I would sneak into the kitchen, snag some champagne, rush back to her pink-ruffled room (I think the bedding was pink; ruffled, I'm quite certain), and crank call boys from our class.  OK, maybe the crank calling was on a different night.  I don't remember what we said.  We made fools of ourselves, to be sure, yet thought we were clever.  At the party, we'd wait for the countdown, rattle our noisemakers, hug, and attack the strufoli.  Made by the family's matriarch (my friend's live-in grandmother, the Old World equivalent of a nanny back in the day), the honey balls were sticky and sweet, and we couldn't stop eating them.  I have long since lost contact with my friend and her family, but I will always remember the way--at New Year's, but pretty much year-round--they made me feel like part of the "famiglia"!


  1. hi allison
    strufoli? you know in greek we call them loukoumades
    i promise i'll make them this month some time and write a story about them (after my neck pain eases - it's been killing me since mid-December)!

  2. My mother-in-law makes these every Christmas. They're delicious and decadent, but worth it! Kids always love them, of course. Who can resist honey balls?? Happy New Year!

  3. My grandmother and Mom would make a version of this when we first came here using those pop fridge canisters. They'd cut them into 1/4s or 1/2s and fry them up and sugar them. I loved them-probably not as sweet as the real sweet yeast dough versions, but still good! I guess if you want them badly enough, you can cheat like that.