Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Family's Table...or Fat, Starch & Grease as Food Groups

When I was growing up, family meals were large - you could generally feed a small country - and heavy.  The rule of thumb was one pound per person and that was for everything.  It didn't matter if it was salad or lasagna.  Platters were piled so high you couldn't see your brother or your cousin, whoever was sitting opposite, to have a conversation.  Talking got in the way of eating, anyway.  My Grandfather would grunt and someone would pass the potatoes, the meatballs, the stuffing, the turkey, or the Arancini (rice balls).  Different foods had different grunts.  At the end of the meal, if there weren't leftovers, Grandma (and Mom) would be embarrassed: there wasn't enough food!  They'd plan on a bigger and heavier menu for the next holiday…even while Grandpa was protesting that we make too much food.

The typical post-holiday picture was my uncle sitting on the couch watching the game, breathing heavily through an open mouth and dozing by halftime.  His belt would be undone, his zipper lowered slightly and his hand, Al Bundy style, tucked comfortably in the waistband.  The kids would be off somewhere playing and the noise would continue around the table as the wine (sometimes with slices of orange mixed in) would flow and the conversation turned to politics or religion.  It was a lot of fun.

With apologies to my mother, however, there is nothing sexy about Italian cooking.  Not in our home, at least.  As proof, I offer the following memory: about three weeks after my wedding I visited my grandparents.  My Grandmother held my hands, took a set back and studied me.  I think she had me turn around.  I know she pinched my cheek (she had a pinch you couldn't forget) before announcing to my Grandfather: He's gaining weight.  She can cook.  My wife received a big hug and a kiss from the old lady and Grandpa threw her a smile.  That was as warm and fuzzy as he got.  I think it was the first time she was truly welcomed to the family.

If the meal is the gateway to sex and you want to be awake - and maybe even moving - never (Never!) take your girlfriend, your wife or even a first date to an Italian Family Meal.  Come late - insist your mother doesn't make you a plate because you're looking skinny or you'll get sick - and just have desert.  Italian desserts are the next best thing to spontaneous, unabashed, rock-your-world sex.  I don't care if it a fruit torte, an √©clair, a zabaglione or my personal favorite, the tiramisu, the person making them is thinking of you and making sure you get happy - even if you say something stupid in the car on the way home and sour the deal.

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