Spring 2015

The Family Table

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1HZNkB7)

The Family Table


Get nostalgic with Danielle as she shares with us the goodness of Italian cooking and the comfort of her home. By the end of her description, you will be hoping for an invite to Sunday dinner! 

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I don’t look Italian.  Unlike my mother, aunt, and cousins, who all have olive-kissed skin and petite frames, I am Casper the Ghost-level pale and relatively tall like my Swiss and German paternal grandmother.  But much to people’s surprise, I identify as Italian.  Even though I am only 25% Italian by blood, my close-knit Italian family is the cornerstone to my identity.  Over eighty years ago, my great-grandfather immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Sicily, Italy.  Starting from humble beginnings, he became the patriarch of my mother’s side of the family.  The majority of my family still lives in Pittsburgh within a short driving distance of each other, which is integral to our family connection.  You see, an enormous amount of family bonding time comes from family dinners.  From small-scale celebrations to major holidays, family meals are a staple of my existence.


For as long as I can remember, every family dinner involved getting shuttled into a car, driving to a relative’s house, and greeting a receiving line of family members with hugs and kisses before making my way into the kitchen.  The kitchen immediately becomes the epicenter of activity, with usually my aunt and Mimi buzzing around the stove and the rest of my family chatting around the kitchen table while munching on cheese and antipasti.  It does not matter whether there are 5 people or 15; everyone is in the vicinity of the kitchen until someone kicks us out (and even then, we make our way back to help with the plating of dinner).  I’m always careful not to fill up on too much antipasti, though, because the main course is always worth the wait.  There’s of course the staples, a few of which always make their appearance at the meal: eggplant parmesan, chicken cutlets, chicken marsala, gnocchi, ravioli, lasagna, olive oil mashed potatoes, and a loaf of crusty bread.


On big holidays, though, my family pulls out all of the stops.  Most people I know enjoy a small Thanksgiving meal with their immediate family, my Thanksgiving dinner this past year was a 6-hour affair that included almost 30 members of my family and involved more osso buco and lasagna than turkey and mashed potatoes.  The biggest family dinner of all, though, falls on Christmas Eve.  My aunts spend countless hours preparing our own version of the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes, making dishes involving shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster, cod, smelts, and octopus.  I spend hours laughing and eating with all of my relatives, enjoying their company just as much as the seemingly never-ending meal.


It’s sometimes hard to explain to my friends on Sunday nights why I can’t hang out with them, or why I would rather be with my family on my birthday than go out with them.  But the table binds my family together, and the bond my family shares all comes down to us sitting around the table.  That inseparable tie of family is something I will sacrifice anything for (or wait in line at the specialty cheese counter at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company over an hour) any day of the week.

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