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If you know where to look, it’s easy to find the Mediterranean lifestyle right outside your door. Or in this case, down a cobblestone alley after a twenty-minute train ride with an unruly bunch of Red Sox fans, and only once you’ve crossed a major road so frighteningly busy that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you actually survived. It was after a perilous journey such as this that I found myself in the North End, also known as the “Little Italy” of Boston, during the Fisherman’s Feast celebration. What is a Fisherman’s Feast, you ask?
The Fisherman’s Feast is an annual event that began in Boston in 1911 and is based on a tradition that goes back to the 16th century in Sciacca Sicily.  The Feast is based on the devotion of the fishermen from Sciacca to the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help).  When the fishermen immigrated to America in the early 1900’s, they brought their traditions with them. Each August since 1911, the Feast has been held in Boston’s historic North End on North and Fleet Streets, making it the North End’s oldest continuously running Italian festival.  The Feast traditionally starts on Thursday when the statue of the Madonna is moved from her home in the Fisherman’s Club to a chapel at the center of the feast. This will be her home throughout the weekend. Each night and during weekend days there is entertainment on the bandstand and vendors selling food (Italian sausages, calamari, pizza, pasta and much more) as well as crafts.  (via www.fishermansfeast.com)
Pay attention to that last sentence. “Italian sausages, calamari, pizza, pasta and more.” Oh, there was more. A lot more. And I think I ate all of it.

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These little beauties are stuffed mushrooms. I must have blacked out from happiness while I was eating them because I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant, but I must assure you that they were delicious — not too big, stuffed with just the right amount of love. Our table was completely silent as we devoured the entire plate.

CANNOLI. This is a word that makes my heart start to beat a bit faster, and sometimes I even break out into a cold sweat just thinking about them.  From what I’ve heard, this is a common reaction from Italians and non-Italians alike. Originating in Sicily, cannoli are vessels made of fried pastry dough, created only to transfer ricotta cheese into my stomach. You can look that description up, I’m sure it’s in a scientific journal somewhere. The ricotta cheese is usually mixed with a variety of flavors, ranging from vanilla to Marsala wine. They are evil little tubes of pure sugar, but they cannot (and should not!) be denied. And even though sweets are at the very top of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, sometimes you just have to enjoy a great dessert. Throughout the course of the day, I consumed the best of what the Fisherman’s Feast has to offer. I drank wine, munched on arancini balls with broccoli and tomato sauce, and even thought about buying whatever this woman below was trying to sell me:

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But at the end of the day, it was all about the Madonna. I made sure to pin a whole dollar bill (I know, I know, extravagant) to her as she was paraded down the street in exchange for some luck. I have my fingers crossed that maybe she’ll give me something big, like a prime parking spot at the garage in the morning before work, or maybe I’ll find that sock I lost in the laundry a few days ago. The sky’s the limit.

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After Madonna was done doing her strut down Fleet Street, the “Flight of the Angel” was performed. Basically, a little girl dressed as an angel is hoisted into the air from a tall building and is lowered down to the Madonna. This is both fascinating and mildly alarming:

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This act concludes the weekend-long feast, as well as this amazing blog post. But I think the lesson here, if you’ll let me get Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on you for a second, is that these kind of cultural celebrations are happening all over the country, and you are probably missing out. So get up, walk away from the computer and TV, and explore your city. Don’t take anything for granted, and don’t let your “staycation” get you down. Maybe you can’t fly over to Palermo for the week, but you can definitely eat like you’re there. That’s what I did, and now I’ve got the Madonna in my corner. Life is beautiful.

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