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Consider the Cannoli: Subjective Preferences and Conversations about Geek Media

Janx

Hero
He did declare the entire concept of fried pastry with a soft filling to be fundamentally flawed, though. Which, as someone who has never experienced cannoli, but has risked many a burned tongue on a fast food fried apple pie, I take issue with.
aye, there is that.

I just don't know what to do about the many blasphemies of Snarf. Perhaps it is a matter for the Pastriarchy to decide.
 

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1. The Great Wave of Ricotta.

I often think about cannoli. They occupy my thoughts, bedevil my dreams. Not because I love them, or obsess about them. Nor because the eating of a cannoli opens my mind to a Proust-like reverie. Instead, it's because of my bewilderment and bafflement. There are so many amazing desserts, so many worthy pastries, yet the cannoli has spread like the cicada across our land; and, like the cicada, people constantly talk about eating them, and how they are crunchy, yet ... I find the cicada and cannoli equally appetizing.

Wait, did I put the cart before the horse? What is cannoli? Canonically (cannolionically?), the true cannoli is a fried pastry dough. Within this fried dough in the form of a tube, a sweet filling based on cheese (usually ricotta) is put in. On occasion, you will see the cannoli dolled up with other accoutrements to hide the banality of its existence- chocolate chips here, pistachios there. Sometimes, you will see variations of it- "Look, ma, I stuff my tube with chocolate!" But for my purposes, I am discussing the platonic ideal of the cannoli.


2. Fine Pastry, Clear Morning.

The cannoli conundrum first reared its head when I was in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for some time. Previously, I had partaken of the cannoli, and had observed them to be, at best, unexceptional, and at worst, terrible. Much like most pastries made in America. Yet now I was hearing this continual refrain- "You have to try the cannoli in the North End. It will change your life. It is the best cannoli."

So on I went, trying these various cannoli, over the course of several weeks, from all of the places in the North End. Each time, I expected that moment. That eureka. That lightbulb. That understanding. I wanted to love the cannoli. But the epiphany never happened. I understood that the cannoli I had here was better than that of other places. I timed it to try and get it fresher. But the fundamental nature of the cannoli continued to make it ... fine. Even the best, freshest, North End cannoli was ... fine. I could appreciate the shell, I could appreciate the filling, and I would just think, "This just isn't a great concept for a pastry. This isn't even as good as a mediocre profiterole."


3. Thunderstorm Beneath Pellegrino

Of course, maybe the problem wasn't the cannoli, maybe the problem was the North End cannoli. I quested, looking high and low to find a cannoli that measured up to some mythical, platonic ideal of what cannoli should be; importantly, perhaps the cannoli would be something I enjoyed! If so many people love cannoli, then I must be the one who does not understand the alluring appeal, so I need to locate that perfect cannoli.

After the North End cannoli, I was told that there was another place in Boston that had even better cannoli. It didn't. Then I was told that, by the people in the know, that the only good place to go was Federal Hill in Providence, because the mob doesn't suffer bad cannoli. Apparently, the mafia didn't get that memo- the cannoli wasn't good. I tried cannoli throughout the United States, and was disappointed. I even tried cannoli when I was in Italy, going so far as to sample the cannoli in Sicily. Those were, by far, the best cannoli I had. They were pretty, pretty, pretty ... okay. The best cannoli was ... fine.


4. Under Mannen Bridge Eating Dessert

For a long time, I did not know how to process this cannoli issue. I still remember those times in that Commonwealth, when people would come to visit, and they would ask me... "What should we do?" And I would reply, "Why, we should go to the North End, because they have the best cannoli!" And the entire time I said that, a part of me was screaming inside. I didn't like, or want, the cannoli. They aren't good. What is this weird group-think that makes everyone go and get it? Yet I couldn't stop myself from repeating what everyone knew. I lacked that confidence in my own taste.

One day, I talked about it with friends. I finally voiced that nagging fear that had been with me the entire time. "Hey, um, so, you know what? I think .... I think cannoli are overrated." And I got the immediate reply, "No way! That's impossible! That's .... that's .... that's like saying No-mah will get traded." Yes, the irony is not lost on me. But in addition to the pushback, there was a knowing look in many eyes, and agreement. Turns out that quite a few people also didn't like cannoli. As one of my friends said, "Thank god you said it. I'd rather have Dunkies any day than another fakkin' North End cannoli."


5. Cushion Pine with Tiramisu

So it goes. I know, deep down, that even the best cannoli will never be something I truly enjoy. That the cult of cannoli is something that, to me, is overhyped and overrated- the crunchy fried shell and soft filling is simply a bad form for a pastry. Best of all, I know that when I can express this opinion, there will be those that finally can recognize that same feeling that has gone unvoiced for so long deep within themselves. You don't have to go with the flow. You don't have to unthinkingly accept the dire hegemony of the cannoli.

Of course, when I voice my opinion about the dread cannoli, there will always be that guy. That guy has heard what I said, but he knows my preferences better than I do. So, inevitably, I will hear about some supposed real best cannoli. Some place has it- a mom & pop restaurant, a modern patisserie started by a celebrity chef, a hole-in-the-wall bodega that specializes in tacos, pho, and cannoli ... some place. And he knows, he just knows, that if I have this particular cannoli, it will change my opinion. And do you know what? I smile, and nod, and then I go and give it a try, because I'm Charlie Brown, and cannoli is Lucy with the football, and that disappointment is part of my life cycle. Besides, I have to honor the chutzpah of someone who hears my cannoli tale and thinks to themselves, "Hey, he just needs a better cannoli!"


6. A sketch of the Sprinkles shop in Suruga in Edo

Some people are all into cupcakes. Screw 'em.


7. Tea House at Koishikawa. The morning after a Netflix Binge.

All of this, of course, goes back to the strong concepts I have long harbored regarding the subjective appreciation a person can have for art. On this forum, it is most apparent when discussing geek media (and, for that matter, D&D, but that's neither here nor there). There are objective things ... facts .... that can be discussed; the names of Star Trek Captains. The director of Empire Strikes Back. But art will affect each of us differently. In fact, sometimes art will hit us differently depending on when we view it.

There are things that I loved as a kid, or as a teen, or as a young adult, that I no longer have the same affection for. There are things that I love now that I would not have loved then. There are preference that I have regarding my media that are important to me, that may not be important to other people.

That said, there is a genuine joy in discussing these topics with other people who share that passion. I like to share the aspects of the things I like, and that I don't; not in the hope that people will always agree with my personal preferences, but rather in the desire that the conversation that ensues is interesting. Is Season ....6 ... of Buffy the best, or at least on par with season 3? Is the Leftovers the best Science Fiction show of the past seven years? If I said the OA might be "in the conversation" with the Leftovers, would I be too crazy, or not crazy enough? If I said I was both giddy with anticipation and dreading the upcoming Dune, because I keep thinking that Denis Villeneuve's movies are visually amazing and yet pretentiously hollow, does that make me too wrong, or too right? I don't know. It's all about preferences.

Like the cannoli. It's a terribly overrated pastry. And yet, assuming they aren't lying to me to keep me consuming something I am not enjoying, some people like 'em ... even love them. Good taste is the excuse I have used for leading a bad life, but I always have to keep myself open to the possibility that Sully, in his Bruins Jersey, still crying over the loss of Tom Brady, clutching his Sam Adams in one hand and his Bova's cannoli in the other ... knows more about pastries than I ever will.

Cannoli aren't to everyone's taste, and I am sure it is like many things: with what you ate growing up having a lot to do with it. If you don't like North End Cannoli, you probably don't like Cannoli (I liked the Cannoli at D'Amicis in Lynn myself, but that is just preference ---it was a nice local bakery overall; we used to get platters of mini-cannoli with a bunch of other pastries). I think of Cannoli as comfort food. They aren't meant to have complex taste or anything like that, they are just creamy and fatty, and, crispy and sweet. For me, I have a lot of associations that come up when I eat them (can't really eat them any more though so past tense I suppose). A lot of Italian food is like that. A good tomato sauce isn't necessarily five star quality, it is how close it gets to tasting like my Mom's or my Aunts sauce.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I have to say, if I want a dessert in an Italian restaurant, I’m looking for gelato first, second and third. To me, even a good cannoli or tiramisu are OK at best, but even an OK gelato is a divine gift.

(And for the record, I’ve had all three in Italy.)
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I have to say, if I want a dessert in an Italian restaurant, I’m looking for gelato first, second and third. To me, even a good cannoli or tiramisu are OK at best, but even an OK gelato is a divine gift.

(And for the record, I’ve had all three in Italy.)

I have to say, if I want a dessert in an Italian restaurant, then I know I didn't eat at a real Italian restaurant, because at a real Italian restaurant the portions are so big that dessert isn't an option- it's a threat.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
(And for the record, I’ve had all three in Italy.)

I went on a trip to Rome and Venice a few years back, and one pice of advice we were given was, "Have gelato every day." It was good advice.

We did also have a cooking class in which we did a variant of tiramisu I actually liked, which is remarkable given that I'm not a fan of coffee.
 

Bagels
Yeah, well, some bread-product-calling-itself-bagel deserves to be treated that way anyhow.

I used to work in a place that did the old school bagels, boiled, then baked. They were great. But there is a style of bagel that is steamed. The bagels come out larger and are pretty good for making sandwiches. I personally prefer the boiled bagel, but I think the other ones are good too.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I went on a trip to Rome and Venice a few years back, and one pice of advice we were given was, "Have gelato every day." It was good advice.

We did also have a cooking class in which we did a variant of tiramisu I actually liked, which is remarkable given that I'm not a fan of coffee.
The last time I hit Rome, there were 3 gelato places on the same corner as our hotel. Each one had killer stuff and we frequently found ourselves hanging out in the street at night, enjoying one last scoop with fellow travelers and locals alike.

And in fairness, somewhat contrary to what I said, I had a tiramisu that trip that was so good it shamed every one I’d ever had in the USA. If more tiramisu here were like the one I had then, I’d be eating more of it. All I can say is that something about that dis was either lost in translation when it hit our shores, or the person who made that tiramisu was taking it to the next level.

Oh, and speaking of coffee-flavored desserts, if anyone lives near a Milwaukee Joe’s ice cream place, their Java flavor exists at the crossroads of coffee & chocolate.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Italian one food I don't care about.
Generally I don't believe in paying money for pasta. Make it yourself at home.

Steak meal or some pasta dish that doesn't fill you and they're about the same price. Or you can go get something else for a similar price.

May have gotten to used to spices in Turkish/Arabic/Persian dishes so Italian/French is kinda bland to me.

Gelato is ok but we have great ice cream here. Imported stuff not so great. Foods so subjective as well.
 

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