Cookbook Captures Family Holiday Traditions
The holidays are a time for tradition. This is one family's tradition; feel free to share yours.
The holiday season represents many things for many people.
For retailers, it's all about being "back in the black." For kids, it's about presents and Santa. For others, it's a time to rejoice in religious activity.
But most of all, this time of year is about family.
The holidays can become bittersweet for some as the years go on. Our children grow older, traditions begin to change and those we loved may be absent from the dinner table this year.
Humans are sensory beings. Our strongest memories stem from our sense of smell and taste. Which is why you may find that the scent of a certain cigar may make you think of your grandfather, or a certain perfume smells just like your mother. The scent of a person or place that we love brings us back in time.
Our most basic act of love is feeding each other, whether it's a mother feeding a baby; a couple swapping spoons of a romantic dessert; a church feeding its homeless; or a son feeding soup to an ailing elderly parent. A full belly is a feeling of ultimate satisfaction and of being loved.
There are ways to pay homage to your most treasured traditions and to remember those who have passed. The best way, I've found, to bring life back to the memories of my family is by cooking recipes they were known for.
Unfortunately, some of us have family members that choose to never share their most prized recipes. Perhaps, people fear it would take away something special that only they bring to the table–literally.
However, I urge them to come out of the cupboard with their recipes, because a recipe is better than any photograph or heirloom. Recipes bring back every memory of that person and make it feel as if the person is in the room with you again.
I'm lucky. I come from a family of great kitchen cooks. Ironically, none of us have pursued a career in culinary arts nor have any of us had formal training. We are just a family of good eaters and great entertainers because of our desire to show love for one another.
But, this is not the only reason why I feel that I am so lucky.
My cousin, Patricia Zorzi, has taken it upon herself to write down all of our family's most treasured recipes, as well as a few of her own, and turned it into a great cookbook, "The Italian Fork."
Every page has a recipe with a backstory or a fond memory and always with a declaration of love for the originator of the recipe itself. I was so grateful for this book. I made some of the recipes that my grandmother used to make for us, such as cauliflower and macaroni (a simple, inexpensive dish that my grandmother made for her family of 12 children and continued to make every Monday night until she passed away at age 103...and a half!); minestrone soup (my aunt's recipe); and pastina with fresh eggs and butter for my son (a classic staple that was made for all the babies and children in my family).
When my kitchen smelled how my grandmother's used to, I knew I had it right. I was 10 years old all over again, and my Friday night was now Sunday afternoon at Grandma's. It had brought her back to life for me and brought me so much joy to see my son eating the recipes that his great-grandmother used to make for me.
In our family, "tomato sauce" is known as "gravy" and every dish had a funny nickname to go with it like "Bean-Bean" for pastina with eggs.
"The Italian Fork" is loaded with so many great party dishes we've had over the years: cousin Mary's overnight cinnamon buns (great for Christmas morning); venison with gravy over rigatoni (great for families with a hunter); and fresh fruit punch (always at every family party since we were mostly non-drinkers).
There are countless everyday recipes from escarole with cannelini beans marinara and brocolli rabe with linguini (my mother's own recipe).
Patty also shares our family's most treasured gravy recipes such as traditional Sunday gravy (a large pot of tomato sauce with various fresh meats for a traditional Italian Sunday dinner) and Bolognese.
Holiday dishes for our Italian Christmas Eve for the Seven Fishes, such as traditional baccala, stuffed shrimp and our main event: cippino which is a steam pot of shrimp, sea scallops, Dungeness crab legs, little neck clams, black mussels and whole Maine lobsters.
I'm lucky. I have a book to capture the tastes, the smells and stories of my family's traditions. This is my treasure map, trove and chest.
I'm lucky because I've had a family who made these recipes traditions.
My cousin has since made her family cookbook public and is selling copies for everyone to share.
To order a copy of "The Italian Fork," send a check for $15 to Patricia Zorzi, P.O. Box 245, Landisville, NJ 08326. The cost includes shipping.
If you have any treasured traditions you would like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments section; we'd love to hear from you.