I am sure we all have memories of the Christmases of our youth and I hope all of us created new memories during this past Christmas season.
I cannot help but recall the aromas which wafted through my home as a child and especially today…for my wife, Marion takes great pride and enjoyment as she presents Bacchanalian feasts which would dazzle the Medicis. Indeed, it takes family and friends to be most selective with her extensive menus.
For days, groceries are organized for use as some dishes can be prepared a day or so in advance such as sauces and baking - fish sauces for Christmas Eve and sauces for the turkey, pheasant or ham. I just love to “linger” as long as I can to take in all of the sights and smells. Every Sunday, the sizzling of garlic, oil, meatballs and neck bones are the center of attention, but for the holidays it is always different. I can’t identify the menu because when I ask my bride what she is planning I get this response: “I am making you something a little different this year. It’s a surprise.”
The antipasti is always basically the same and our family always “blitz” this first course with the gusto of a foodaholic with insatiable cravings! The roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, rice balls, prosciutto, fried shrimp, eggplant, wild mushrooms, stuffed breads, baby artichokes, the cheeses like gorgonzola, taleggio, provolone and mozzarella are the “usual suspects” which cause everyone to say, “this would have been enough…you didn’t have to make anything else.” (Right, Ralph R.?)
I enjoy sharing holiday feasting. This is our culture and heritage and it should never be Americanized. Indeed, “the Pilgrims” I know cannot wait to be invited to our home for dinner. But let’s get back to holiday fare in Marion’s cucina. Usually two pastas – one red, one white - to be followed by the main course. As I “nibble” my way through the kitchen my instructions are given. “You know what your job is,” I am told. This has been one of my holiday duties since I have been married. I “do the chestnuts!”
The aromas increase now, as the pastas are served to the applause of all and the complaints of, “you made too much. How can we eat all this?” But you know what? Those complainers always find the room!!! We have some great eaters in our family and circle of friends.
The main course arrives and all are in awe and wonder as it consists of pheasant decorated with bright feathers and a fresh pork roast. My wife tries to “create” with all in mind. There must be something on our table that will be of interest to each and every appetite and most importantly to our grandchildren.
The desserts are soon met with more moaning but no one ever “fasts” when this course is delivered to the table. Cannoli, pies, rice pudding, fruit and the icebox cake which receives the most enthusiasm.
More memories are made for all. This is my heritage and I hope yours, for this is family and friends. I look forward to these “eating holidays” and as our guests later leave with “doggie bags,” I remember tradition is still intact as I forget the chestnuts in the oven again.