Carnival in modern-day Venice wasn't a big deal until the late 70's, early 80's, it was a private affair, mostly children in costumes, confetti and not much more. Then the city decided to market it to attract people to visit the city in one of the slowest months, February. I remember the first year we got invaded by hoards of people, the streets became unmanageable and I almost got thrown off a bridge (I kid you not). I guess Venice was experiencing a hard time financially and with the resurgence of Carnival the municipality was hoping to bring money in, but didn't prepare for the number of people that came within 2-3 days. The first few years were fun, I was in my early tweens and I remember fondly the enthusiasm we felt with all the fun activities and the music everywhere. Every little campo (square) had some sort of event going on, it was great. The novelty wore off eventually, due in part to the drunks tossing bottles everywhere, the acts of vandalism, and the amazing amount of trash left behind. I was left with a bad aftertaste, and felt that Venice was been violated, that all people cared about was cheap and fast entertainment, and nobody really understood this ancient city. Every year Venetians can't wait for the Carnival to be over so they can get they city back, I wonder whether they feel the same in New Orleans. The history of carnival is so rich, we have many characters that originated from Venice, many depicted in la commedia dell'arte, Carlo Goldoni being our most famous writer. I wish people took time to really learn what Carnival is about, and respect this beautiful place I still call home.
There are many things we eat during Carnival, fritoe or frittelle being my favorite and most loved by all children. I am not sure they were the culprit but when I was around ten years old I remember waking up covered in itchy red spots after having consumed a ridiculous amount of frittelle the day before (an early sign of my lack of control when it comes to good food). There are many recipes for these little fritters, I like the basic recipe better, made with yeast, water and flour. Typically frittelle in Venice are made with raisins, I like to add pine-nuts as well.
Fritelle alla Veneziana
500 grams all purpose flour (1# 1oz)
15 grams dry active yeast (.5 oz)
4 tablespoons sugar
200 grams raisins (7 oz)
100 grams pinenuts (3.5 oz)
pinch of salt
2 cups warm water
zest one orange
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, add half of the flour and let rest for few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined, the dough should be very wet and slightly thicker than a waffle batter. Let rest for 3 hours. Fry by dropping spoonfuls in hot vegetable oil (set at 380), drain, and dust with powder sugar. Eat fresh as they turn stale after few hours.