My family has always had a huge impact on me and my view of food. I have a very large extended family on both sides of my parents. Holidays, birthdays, gatherings…all the food and preparation was an event. It didn’t matter what time of year, whether there would be ten people or twentyfive. There were always courses…and tons of food at all of them. So it is no surprise that my earliest memories are all involving food. I can remember all meals being made from scratch…no shortcuts, and I can remember looking over the pot on my grandmother’s stove (my mom’s mother) to see her simmering an entire octopus. (I was so scared by that moment.) I was crying at the thought of a whole octopus cooking on the stove after seeing it the week prior on Sesame Street representing the number eight. I can also remember going to the market with my mother to buy what seemed like tons of tripe to clean and cook for a family picnic. I can remember being in my bedroom and pressing my nose against the screen of the open window to get a sniff of fresh air, I could not stand the smell of the tripe as it cooked. But let me not forget the first time my parents let me have a sleepover party with my friends when I was in the fourth grade. My mom made all of us girls (there had to be eight of us), sit down for dinner (ziti and meatballs) in the dining room and then served us all cake. When we were done eating in the living room playing a game, my mother was back in the dining room setting the table for the pancake breakfast she planned for the morning. One of my friends looked at my mom setting the table and asked; “Mrs. Librera, are you going to make us eat again?” So yes, over time I learned that none of this was common to most, but normal to us!
This brings me to when I was first dating my husband and my parents said that I should have him over for dinner so they could get to know him better. My mom said she would make him a traditional Italian dinner for him. So my mom started in the morning with her sauce on the stove and browning her meatballs, Pork Chops, and Bracioles to add to the sauce. She was all ready for Brian to come over. She couldn’t wait to feed the skinny, non-Italian boy I was dating. So Brian comes over and the antipasto was set up in the living room. We sat and chatted, my sister being the antagonistic little sister that she was and my dad was grumpy from a bad commute home from work in New York City. This was the making of a great dinner!
When my mom’s pasta was ready she asked us to sit at the dining room table and she would serve us. Out came the giant bowl of pasta and sauce with the salad, bread and grading cheese already on the table. She served us all and we started eating. When Brian was done she asked him if he would like another bowl…yes he said. And yes to a third bowl as well. My parents were impressed at how much he could eat and proud that they were serving him. When Brian said he was done with his pasta my mother said “Okay, I will go get the meat now.” Brian was so stuffed and had more than enough; he leaned over to me and said, “Why didn’t you tell me there was more food?” I believe my response was, “You didn’t know?” And I believe my sister said, “We always eat like this.” And out came the platter of meats, and also a bowl of string beans. And of course, Brian ate all of that too. My mother also brought out some coffee ice cream that she whipped with some Brandy and had chilling in Brandy Sniffer Glasses to finish off the meal. It was a great meal, one I would never forget – neither would Brian (after loosening his belt).
Over the years my family and food have created a ton of memories. I luster in the thoughts of them all, and I am delighted at the thought that I create more each and every day with my husband now. I know our waist lines might not be happy with them all, but we are enjoying each one we create. I will admit that two bowls of pasta are usually his limit now …