my sweet momma was not italian – no, not at all – but you wouldn’t have known it. “mangia!” she’d insist, “eat up!”.
a product of the great depression, my momma was not privy to fancy and did not prepare schmancy foods. she chose ragu as her pasta sauce of choice. prego made an appearance here and there, but she listed to the ragu side of the shelf. she made many a lasagna, pots and pans of meat sauce and spaghetti, a mountain of meatballs. we didn’t have designated pasta bowls – we used the same corelle plates we dined on everyday. it didn’t matter. everyone gathered felt nourished, by the food, by the conversation, by the love.
i would imagine that – just as we have here – there are refrigerators loaded with leftovers today. all kinds of appetizers – cheeses, hors d’oeuvre meats, olives, grapes … anything you can purchase at tenuta’s – a local italian grocery and specialty delicatessen – in all sorts of containers. leftover pies and chocolates and cookies stacked in containers. leftover homemade pasta sauce and plastic ziplocks with penne in containers. because it worked with the train schedule of our son and his boyfriend, our christmas day early afternoon meal was a big pot of chuck roast chili and cornbread followed by a trip to the station and big hugs and a wistful mom – me – waving goodbye as the they disappeared into the metra. in the fridge, the big stock-pot, chili not having made its way yet into a – yes – container.
i guess that it is the thrill of most moms to have as many as possible gathered around the table. it is a thrill to watch your family enjoy a good meal together, to have conversation, to laugh, to table-sit afterwards. the first thing i remember my momma asking anytime we’d all arrive was, “are you hungry? what can i get you?” and the last thing she’d do is hand us a doggie-bag of leftovers or a snack bag for our travels.
as the boys prepared to leave, i asked, “what can i send with you? what snacks do you need for on the train? what about these cookies?”, though in my mind i was envisioning sending them with a full charcuterie so they could munch on their brief train to chicago. one does not want one’s children to go hungry on the train.
we got home from the drive to the station a little noshy. we poured glasses of wine and peered into the container-crowded fridge. pulling out the leftover pasta, we heated it up in the microwave in its leftover container. the arugula salad was within grasp without having to move too many things around the fridge shelves, so we pulled that out as well. with merry christmas napkins and a couple forks, we sat at the kitchen table eating leftovers out of their respective storage vessels – unfancyschmancy containers. the dining room table – in the space between living room twinkling-light-lit-trees and sunroom happy lights – still had candles and cloth napkins, a tiny tree festive for each of our meals all together, but the kitchen called our names after the holiday rush and we gazed at the piles of bowls and plates, silverware and glassware on the counter, waiting to be tended.
and just before we left the kitchen to go put on our match-the-fam buffalo plaid pjs and thick socks to early-snuggle under a fuzzy blanket on the couch and watch “love actually” i could hear my momma. “are you sure you had enough? can i get you anything else? a little dessert?”
clearly, somewhere in her dna – even maybe way-way-way back – she was a little italian.