This year Northwest participated in the Folk Fest as a vendor. We did something I’ve always talked about doing over the years with my students: sell only cannoli. Well, we walked the walk for three days.
Friday evening was rather slow. It was sunny and hot, the ice cream people next to us were slammed, while our stand was piping a cannoli every 5 minutes to order. Many that approached our humble stand were curious to know what this Sicilian cannoli are all about. Is it made with meat? Is it a dessert? What’s in it? Then it dawned on me that as far as this delectable gem of a dessert goes, Vancouver is not New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Montreal, or Toronto, let alone Palermo. At least not yet. I have faith in education, and, more so, in learning. Our sign, brilliantly made by our students Carrie and Evelyn, clearly described the anatomy of our cannoli.
By far the hardest part of this dessert is making the shell. The dough, made with flour, eggs, butter, fortified wine, sugar and cinnamon is kneaded, rested, laminated with a pasta machine, cut into rounds, molded, and fried. The students made 1000 shells, volunteering their time after class. The filling is made with ricotta – we made our own, something our students have to learn – sweetened with candied pumpkin and watermelon rind (very, very traditional in very old recipes), also made in house, and sweetened with the spiced syrup of the candied fruit. The cannoli is then dipped in chopped roasted pistachios on one end, and chopped chocolate the other. The piece is then dusted with cinnamon sugar. How could you not want one of these?
Again, have faith. The word does eventually get around, whether tweeted, or simply by word of mouth: “What’s that you’re having?”
We only sold around 150 Friday night, mostly after the sun went down. Saturday the pace was quite decent in the afternoon, but accelerated again by later evening. The word was out. People who had never had a cannoli – virgins in the eyes of a Sicilian, even New Yorker or Bostonian – were coming to us with purpose. We sold close to 600 Saturday. Now this meant we had some 250 left for Sunday. I made the decision to avoid the hot afternoon sun and open our stand only around 6pm. We sold out within an hour and a half, with line ups. People wanted their cannoli.
After expenses, we raised close to $3000, which will go towards scholarships. We award close to $12,000 in scholarships per year, and with successful events like this one, we hope to award more next year, and the year after that. An event like the cannoli stand, and especially like the Folk Fest, is dependent on volunteerism. It is easy to have faith in people when you see present students help sustain the profession for future students. That is a cycle definitely worth nurturing.