“Eat well, laugh often, love much.” Words my family has lived by for generations in the kitchen. Beyond the recipes and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation, the act of gathering over a simmering pot of gravy and meatballs (yes, we call marinara GRAVY), and sharing stories and laughs has filled me up more than any delicious meal ever could.
I remember visiting with my three great aunts, Lena, Evelyn and Josie, in an old brownstone in the North End of Boston as a kid. Somehow we would cram way too many people around a tiny table in the kitchen and eat for what seemed like days, finishing off with a nice salad to wash it all down. Everything was handmade to perfection. The aunties would delight in one of us jumping on the old piano and playing a few tunes while the finishing touches on dinner were made, or they would take us for a walk and we’d stop at nearly every doorstep to say hello to friends in the neighborhood.
Or visiting my Nana in Somerville and regardless of whether she was expecting us or not, she would whip together some magical baked treat with extra to take home. Nothing was ever measured, just a pinch of this and a bit of that. In fact, I asked her for her zuccini bread recipe three times and got three different recipies! All the while, we would catch up on recent events and she would recap the last Red Sox game or share what great sales were going on at Filenes and Jordan Marsh.
Of course, Christmas Eve at my mother’s house is the epitome of an Italian kitchen in full swing. Auntie sitting at the table shredding salted cod for the baccala, Ma and Grandma at the stove tending to the shrimp and Alio Olio, Colin and I stealing anchovies from the can, Laurene making the egg nog (with a broken ladle, of course), and everyone gathered around together, enjoying just being together and counting our blessings.
I know, on my husband’s side as well, these traditions run deep. My mother-in-law can honestly make a four course meal for an army out of three ingredients. Something she learned from her mother. I love to watch her cook because she improvises as she goes and the end result is nothing short of fabulous every time. When we gather around the table and say Grace, I can’t help but think how blessed we are to have an abundance of food, family and friendship, and how lucky my husband and I are to share such amazing families with each other.
My little family still tries to sit down at 6:00 every night for dinner together. It’s gotten increasingly harder as schedules and homework have demanded more time, but at least a few nights a week, sometimes at odd hours, we sit as a family and talk and laugh and share our lives. Usually Dad will throw in a history or current events lesson and a bad joke or two while my middlest keeps us current on the funniest memes of the week. When they were younger we would go around the table and say one good thing and one bad thing that happened that day, which brought up some great conversation starters, and which my youngest still enjoys. I also find that even my oldest rolls it back a bit over a plate-full and shares with us a day in the life of a high schooler.
I cherish these times together as I know they will be harder to come by as our kids get older. But I also know that there will always be a special place in the kitchen or around the table to reconnect and count our blessings as if no time has passed.
I found this huge, old rolling pin at an antique shop a few weeks back and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it, but knew I had to have it. Turns out it fits perfectly perched atop my stove in my kitchen and reminds me of what is truly important, both past and present. The typeface is Voluta Script Pro, which has an old-world feel to it. I can hear my Auntie Josie saying these words, with apron on and hand’s flying!