Watching the onion sauteed with oil and garlic, prepped to add the sauce and seasoning. I tell the friends I’m making dinner for that “cooking Italian food makes me feel like I’m cooking with my ancestors.”
I’m only thinking of one. Nonna.
Sunday nights were especially sacred when Nonna was still with us. She made them that way.
The table set for 15. The tablecloths for special occasions only and the fancy dinnerware.
In the kitchen, Nonna would be cooking until the last minute. Stirring sauce with meatballs, adding time on the oven for the roast, mixing the salad, and laying out the bread. Enough food to feed a small army, we would always say. Often when I picture her, it’s working hard in the kitchen.
She taught my sister and me how to mix the meatballs, adding in the milk. “What?! You add milk?” We would ask, confused and amazed. She smiled. She walked us patiently through each step.
She hosted sleepovers with our cousin, Daniella and every time we made homemade pizza with fresh dough. The best.
We made biscottis, lasagna, gnocchi, pasta, Caprese salad, Italian wedding soup, and sauce. I learned it all from her first.
To create a garden you’re proud of.
To use your hands to knead out the difficult parts.
To make your life and work hard for it.
To fashion a lasting bond simply out of oil.
To delight in it all. She delighted in us, her family.
As I stir the sauce, I wish she were next to me. Stirring it too, reminding me what to add in. To see her beautiful, olive hands press, pour, and persist alongside me.
Nonna was an angel to us all. We all knew it and believed it. She was strong and fierce when she needed to be, but mostly she was soft and pure. I think we all believe to our core she could do no wrong. Her life was a sacrifice of time, energy, and endless love. An outpouring of so much more than food despite that being her way of often showing the love. I can’t think of anyone besides my own mother who comes close.
For awhile after she passed, I think it was hard to get back into the kitchen and find joy like I used it. She would be happy to see me here and feeding friends & family alike.
Thank you, Nonna. For your recipes, your advice, your unending amount of grace while we learned, and sacrificial love in the kitchen & out.
Never doubt the impact you make in your life. Even if it’s while you’re cooking for your people. Especially while you’re cooking for your people. I know our Nonna made a lasting one on ours.
Ti amo, Nonna.