Food & Family

A family’s heart is in the kitchen, especially Italian families. My fondest memories are in the kitchen preparing recipes passed on from generation to generation. I was taught that cooking was a form of love, not work. It’s more than nourishment, it’s family. It is the pleasure of giving that fulfills your soul.

There are special foods that are savored specialties. Mmmm, just thinking about Sunday gravy filled with delicious meatballs makes my mouth water. It’s amazing that their dishes tasted so wonderful without any measuring, like a pinch of sugar and a handful of cheese. Foods are not only about taste but also about memories. These recipes were learned at the hands of our loved ones and passed down through the generations which link us to our families past. Foods and recipes made by loved ones who are no longer with us like my mother’s lemon salad, a green salad with citrus flavors of lemon and orange mixed with radishes, black olives, red onions, tomato and spicy arugula greens and a variety of lettuce bring a smile to everyone’s faces. Whether it’s chocolate cake or meatballs, everyone has their favorite dishes. What my mother prepared in one day now takes me a week.

Along with their recipes, their lives taught us about grace and courage. My mother was always thinking about what dish she could prepare and in turn, make her family happy. She could be hospitalized and yet her focus was what she would cook when she got home. She would tell me, “Everything is easier if we make it together.” I guess cooking gave her a zest for life. She taught me that food is life and love. I miss her food. I miss her love.

Along with the recipes came the dishes they were served on; grandma’s platter, Dad’s pizza pan, Mom’s bowl. The dishes used are precious keepsakes that connect me to the past. As I prepared for Easter week, I pulled out recipes well worn with discoloration, stains, and dishes with a small chip here or there. Tears came to my eyes thinking of the many times I helped my mother prepare those recipes. I pull out a zigzag tool for cutting dough and a platter that my mother filled weekly with delicious varieties of pasta. They are special treasures hard to explain to someone who’s not sentimental. Not only are our dishes filled but we keep their memories preserved.

It is with a heavy heart that I miss my parents, brother, grandma and those loved ones passed away. Nothing and nobody can replace them however when preparing the holiday recipes we can keep them with us in our hearts, keep their memories alive. The recipes never taste exactly the same as theirs but they’re close enough to soothe the soul. On my buffet table, displayed pictures of Grandma, Mom, Dad and my brother who are no longer with us. My family teases me about all the family pictures I have throughout my home. The pictures keep my loved ones with me in spirit. Yes, the buffet table is in the dining room so I can see their pictures when my family gathers at the table. Silly huh?

As I sit at the dining room table this Easter, I look at the faces of my family. There is comfort having everyone gathered around the table. It makes me happy and brings peacefulness to my soul. I am my mother’s daughter!
Even though this new year has brought us challenges through health issues, it has made us stronger, closer and reminded us of what’s important.

So next time you prepare a family recipe, take a few minutes to remember and reflect on family, past, and present. Raise a fork to the ones that taught you, to the loved ones at your table and the love they gave you!

Michele Palermo

Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That's where she learned there's a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus, after going through a divorce, taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.

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