What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for my Mother.

The holidays were my favorite times of year growing up. And still are actually; I am like a child around the holidays with food, setting the table, gifts, decorations, and making sure my children understand their importance. But even without a lot of family around growing up, my parents made us feel like we were never alone. It’s always been so baffling to me that I grew up without a lot of family present in my life outside of my Father, Mother and 2 Sisters. But my parents had an immense core of friends, who ended up becoming family, and still to this day call them ‘zio or zia’ or regard them as cousins. But for the most part it was the five of us. My Mother would go all out, buy the best ingredients to make dinner; then we’d celebrate for hours talking, laughing and eating.

In fact, I do have a very large family-lots of Aunts and Uncles, and an unfathomable amount of cousins and second cousins..and thirds, but not here in the States. My parents are immigrants from Sicily. They came to America some 42 odd years ago, before my sisters and I were born; so I am Italian-American, aka first generation. Long story short, my parents, after living a few years in NY, move from where they had a few siblings to where they are now, for better work and living opportunities. Even with the longing of family, my parents, who I believe I mentioned as being amazing people..and if I haven’t, well, my parents are amazing people, made such a wonderful life for my Sisters and I, and they still do.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized because of the way I was brought up that I am a type of ‘snob’ about food. I use that term snob very, very loosely though, because it’s not that I was intentionally snobbish. I mean a person can’t help but compare what they know to what they see.  For example, something like dinner. I grew up with my sisters preparing the table for dinner, eating a first and second course for dinner..maybe a pasta made with a fresh meat and tomato sauce with a second course of veal cutlets, a crisp salad, fresh sautéed vegetables and crunchy bread. Sounds great right? It was. But then, and this is a true story, the first visit to a friend’s house for dinner. You don’t really think of this, unless you are of another culture. Your expectations are the same as your own home, you wait for the table to be set..but then you see they don’t set the table before eating. Ok, you move forward. Then you are handed a bowl of plain spaghetti, which is fine. But you see them pull ketchup from the fridge to put on their pasta. Wth? Blech. And though this story isnt mine, it’s a story that I have kept in my mind since hearing it when I was 4..from my sister.  But yes, these first glimpses outside your realm are strange and it’d be strange the vice versa, too, I’d imagine. But I just always felt bad for those people. Like they were missing out on so much goodness. Like I knew a secret that they didn’t know. GOOD FOOD MADE WITH LOVE.

So, as I start to think about my Mother, I can’t help but share this Friday’s story.  After a morning of Christmas shopping with me and my 5 yr old daughter, who wore us both out, my Mother went home and started preparing with my Father for the night’s dinner. My Father and my Brother-in-law’s birthday celebration was planned.  She was making dough for her pizza. Our whole family was getting together for this celebration.. this means 6 adults and 4 children, who love to eat. So I thought..’Uhm, it’s real late, why not buy the dough..or the pizza?’ Well, she says ‘there is an honesty to what you make when you do it yourself. You know the ingredients, and a part of you goes along with that’. And you know what, she is right. Even at (cough) 35 yrs old, she keeps teaching me life lessons. She has this ability to make you feel love through her food. It is a phenomena that I feel is so innate. Something that she learned from her own Mother, my beautiful Nonna. A woman who I feel like I know in my soul through my Mother’s stories, but unfortunately, never got a chance to meet. And. Yes, it’s some strange Italian obsession that all our Moms cook like no one elses, but in this instance it is true. Honestly, it’s not about her making you something for your birthday, or, that she’ll hear you driving down her street and already start putting the pan on to make soup for you..she just has this way of making her food comfort you. Even toast! Every bite is delicious. Feels special. Warms you. It’s my Mother.

Holidays and family celebrations are not the same without the good, quality food we grew up with. Which is part of how my Mother made things resonate with importance. Family is important. The food we share is important. The morals and etiquettes we were taught, and, the traditions we carry on are to keep those feelings with us forever, are IMPORTANT. My Mother. I am so thankful for my Mother. I love her so much. She really is a gift from God to me and my sisters. Not only a beautiful woman on the outside, but so much wonderful on the inside. Her passion is evident in everything she touches, and I am proud to bestow this passion onto my children.  Ti voglio un mondo di bene, Mamma.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Be safe in your travels, and, EAT GOOD FOOD, dammit!

Here are 2 images of the amazing pizza my Mother made Friday; from the dough to the sauce all homemade. I can see the love here. And Anchovies unfortunately. haha
Too bad it’s just a picture.

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