Monday, April 03, 2006

Ma Famiglia

Of all the wonderful experiences I had during my trip, the most amazing was meeting my extended family. The hospitality and affection showered upon my Nona and me is something we'll remember for the rest of our lives. I don't know how to explain it, other than to say that I felt like I was home.

Food, above all else, was the focal point of the days we spent there. Everything centers around the kitchen. The men sit and talk while the women prepare enormous feasts for their family (ok, so it's not SO different from anywhere else in the world), and anyone else who may simply be passing by on the street. Gossip and town news were usually the topics at hand.

Once we sat down at the table (on average, about fifteen of us), fresh pasta, hand-cut or rolled that very day started each meal. Then they presented two or three different kinds of meats, a seafood dish, salad with olive oil from their own olive trees, and vegetables so fresh that you knew they were picked that day made up the next several courses. And the bread. I cannot say enough about it. Freshly baked and warm, you could actually taste the love and care that was put in to it. Local cheeses, cured meats and sausages were on the table throughout the meal, and I realized from time to time that I was absently picking and eating from each and every plate.

After the main courses were finished and the table was cleared, they would bring out cakes and pastries, whole fruit, and nuts picked from the trees on their property. Coffee and aperitifs were served, and we all sat there, full, laughing and sharing stories.

It was then that I realized that food, for them, is so much more than something they put in their bodies to survive. More than something that tastes good, that satisfies. It is their lifeline to their family. Sitting at the table for hours is their way of connecting, of staying close to one another, and it's something that most of us take for granted in our own lives. It's their most important way of showing their love for one another.

So, meet my family...the people that made me realize how I want to live out the rest of my life, and how I want to love and be loved.

Antoinetta (Nona's cousin) & My Nona. They never knew they were related before this day. Look how much alike they look! It's freaky!

Incoronato, Nona's cousin, and the best damn chef in the world!

Giuseppe (Joe), Incoronato's husband. He's the sweetest old guy I've ever meet.

My cousins, Torigio & Pina

Antonio & Luigi, my little pervert cousins! Don't let the sweet faces fool you. They'll pinch your ass!

Incoronato, and her granddaughter, Angela.

Where the love is...

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