A Two-Panettone Year

On Christmas Eve afternoon, after dropping off the second half of my Christmas letter mass mailing at the nearby post office, I continued a few blocks to my Walgreens to pick up a couple needed items to get me through the holidays. Just inside the door, a stack of large square boxes, bright yellow with red printing that announced the presence of panettone, a dessert that shows up in American stores around the holidays.  

Grabbing a box as I headed to the checkout counter, I confessed to the young woman waiting to ring up my purchases, “I already bought one of these here last week.” She agreed with me that the year just ending justified my purchasing a second one. She had the good grace not to ask if I’d eaten the entire first one myself.

Grabbing a box as I headed to the checkout counter, I confessed to the young woman waiting to ring up my purchases, “I already bought one of these here last week.”  She agreed with me that the year just ending justified my purchasing a second one. She had the good grace not to ask if I’d eaten the entire first one myself.

The store was, like the post office and the streets outside, sparsely occupied so we were able to continue our discussion of panettone. “It’s Italian, isn’t it?’ she asked. “Yes,” I replied, “and I’m half-Italian. But I don’t remember it being a fixture on my grandparents’ holiday table except only occasionally, perhaps brought to them as a gift. I was sure I wouldn’t like it, so it was not until way into adult years that I learned I’d been missing something. A dessert not too sweet, with a consistency somewhere between cake and bread. “How do you eat it? Do you heat it up?” she asked. “No,” I answered. “I just grab off chunks and eat it with a glass of chilled white wine before dinner.” ( However, in the past I’ve been known to eat chunks of it in the car, without wine, while driving home from the store.)

“Do you like fruit cake?” she asked, alluding I guessed to the glazed fruit pieces in panettone. “Fruit cake? Only sparingly and only if it’s loaded with nuts to make it interesting,” I said.

“I’ve only tasted the one with chocolate , but I guess they didn’t order any this year,” she said. “No,” I told her,  “there’s a separate stack of those down that other aisle,” and I pointed over my shoulder.  “I appreciated they kept them separate so I wouldn’t grab one by mistake. I’m a big chocolate fan but not in panettone. I’ve never tried it, but it seems wrong somehow.  A desecration of both foods.”

“You should write about it,” my new acquaintance said.

“Funny you should say that, I said. “That’s what I do, write.” (Except when I don’t.)

I’ll have to go back and show her this. And ask if she tried the panettone without chocolate chips.

9 comments on “A Two-Panettone Year

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very fun read Pat! A good Christmas story.

  2. Carolyn Niethammer says:

    Interesting story. I sort of made my own this year with apricots and dried cranberries and lots of walnuts (because they are about half the price of pecans). Neighbors and friends got slices along with slices of a lemon turmeric cake and turnovers with quince.

  3. Roger Keyser says:

    I see that Kroger has Panettone available for $$2.49 (marked down from $4.99), but it’s too late to add to our order. It’s time to go pick it up in an hour or so.

    I don’t remember it, so if I ever tried it. it didn’t register on my teenage mind.

    Nice article and newsletter. Keep it up!

  4. fordburkhart says:

    Loved this piece. Just right length for this morning. Keep sending. Ford

  5. Thomas Tamburin says:

    Greetings Pat: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. How interesting you mention Panettone! We loved it in Slovenia when we lived there. May the new year bring you lots of joy, happiness and health!

    • patnieder says:

      Thanks, Tom. Nice to hear from you and to realize how far-reaching is enthusiasm for this delicious treat. Today’s NY Times Cooking email included a recipe for bread pudding made from slightly stale panettone. Can’t imagine it staying around long enough to get to that point, but I kept the recipe to try another year.

      • Thomas Tamburin says:

        How interesting, because my father (a former chef) makes a sugar-free bread pudding often for me, given that I’ve been a diabetic for decades now. If only they would make a sugar-free panettone, I’d be in heaven! Stay well and stay safe during this time….

  6. peter says:

    You’re half-Italian?

  7. Thomas Tamburin says:

    Half Slovenian (my mother) and half Croatian (my father). When we lived in Koper, Slovenia, we were literally 15 minutes across the border from the Italian city of Trieste. So our cultures were very blended…. and panettone was a treat in the entire region…

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