Buona Pasqua!

There is a lovely poem that was written by my friend, Dan Verner regarding the treatment of Christmas vs. Easter. You can see it on his WP blog and FB page. He is right in that Christmas is treated, especially in the United States, with so much fanfare that we often forget that Easter, as a holy-day, is just as miraculous.

When I was a child, Easter was treated on the same level as Christmas. Being brought up as an Italian-American, the Easter season, beginning with Ash Wednesday was even more revered. There was sacrifice, albeit it might have been just candy, that was expected of you.  There was absolutely no meat eaten on Fridays and other Holy Days of Obligation, confession and communion was not even up for discussion and at 3:00 PM on Good Friday, you went to the Stations of the Cross.  A prayer vigil that was held for each stop that Christ made on His way to Calvary. When you got home, there was a dinner with fish, fish, fish! Easter Saturday was spent cooking–all day–for the celebration of the Risen Christ, Easter.

Food, the likes of which you can’t believe! Ahhh, Easter! Pizza Rustica! Pastiera! Easter Breads! Cannoli! Sicilian Cassata (for those of Sicilian heritage), Anginetti and other incredible Italian pastries and cookies. And that was just the beginning! Dinner was unbelievable. Antipasta, lasagna, meat course (could be roasted lamb or chicken), the gravy meat (meatballs, braciola, sausage), salad, vegetables. While everyone was cleaning up the dinner dishes, there was fruit and nuts, then the coffee came out–“black or brown?”–espresso or regular(no decaf was mentioned, ever). Then, the desserts!!!!! OMG!!! Except for the first thing listed, the Pizza Rustica, which you munched on after church on Easter Sunday, especially because you got hungry hunting for eggs, the others were dessert! 

I can remember the Three Sisters; my mother Linda, my aunt Anne, and my Godmother Kate, cooking in the kitchen. Each had their assigned duties. I can still see Katie standing in front of the pastry board with at least 20 pounds of flour, making the pastry and pie crusts for the Pizza Rustica and Pastiere.  Ten inch pie plates were used. The pastry was soft and delicate and perfect. My mother made the cookies. You name it, she made it. She collected pounds of butter from when it was on sale and used nothing but Land O’Lakes…the other was too “watery.” Her cookies were coveted. And my Aunt Annie made the gravy. While my mom made the braciola, (beef and pork), the sausages, (that had to come from the Pork Store or somewhere on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx), were carefully rendered in the big dutch oven. Patiently, patiently, my Aunt Anne would braise the sausage until it was golden brown. Then, out it came and the braciola went in. It was a process, but nothing, nothing was better then my Aunt Annie’s gravy (my mother used to get pissed when I said that). Un poco cooking rivalry between them. The meatballs, that were beautiful, round and browned by my Aunt Katie at 0-Dark-30, that morning, were the last things added. If you want to see an Italian making a lasagna, check out cookingwithnonna.com. It has recipes for all that I mentioned…real recipes!

And then, we ate!! Ten, fifteen, twenty at the table with guests arriving, all of the time. And we laughed. And we told stories. And we loved!  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Happy Easter! May your memories always be wonderful!

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Good Friends, Good Food!

All of my friends know that I’m a foodie! I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to share.  On Christmas Eve, except for very recently, I always did the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. Even people who did not eat fish, ate it all! And, it has always been a great joy of mine to watch them  After all, I am my mother’s daughter.  Even though I cannot do the feast, anymore, Christmas Eve is still a great time of celebration at our house.  There is still lots of food, great bread (thank you to my friend, Kay, the honorary “Bread Lady”), and very excellent wine…oh, and desserts.  You have not eaten cake until you’ve eaten my friends’ Tee and Antje cakes.  This year, I even ordered cookies from Sicily!  They were magnificent.  But this blog is not about the wonderful Christmas Eve feasts at the Miller house.  It is about why I am such a lover of food.

Last night, my dear friend, Tee, gifted upon us her grandmother’s buttermilk biscuits and gravy.  GIFTED. Now, I’m Italian, (yes, I know, I’ve said that before,) so gravy, to me is rich, tomato-y sauce for pasta.  To Tee, it’s down home, country creamy, buttery rich gravy that you slather on your pork chops and lick off your fingers.  And, you don’t eat gravy without biscuits…although, I could eat it from a spoon! So, last night, we combined forces and had a wonderful, down home, Southern meal.  Reason number 1 for being a foodie.  We love good food.

But more than that, Tee’s sharing of her grandmother’s biscuits is her sharing a piece of HER life that is so very different from mine, and yet I experienced a real piece of it.  Through food, you get to share someone else’s life experience.  Reason number 2 for being a foodie.

Another friend of mine, Antje, shares Christmas Eve with us.  She is German and we have learned more about her life over a glass (or several) of wine, then we could any other way.  We also learn about her life every Christmas.  She has an italian Christmas Eve and we have an honest to goodness German Christmas! Her tortes are incredibly delicious and have no calories…yeah, right.  They are elaborate and yummy and filled with her heritage and her love.  What could be a better way to learn about someone else’s culture. Reason number 3 for being a foodie.

In this ever shrinking world, we must learn about people.  We must be able to accept and embrace differences.  I am blessed to be able to fill my table with an array of different people, people I love and have learned from…this is the international house of pancakes! If you can share food with others, you share the world.  Reason 3 for being a foodie!