People talk about the good old days and groan about growing older. But I remember those days of juggling multiple jobs to stay afloat financially. Trying to keep the kids straight while trying to give them a good life in bad times was stressful.
Those days left me no time for classes or studying or doing anything what I wanted to do. Life was all about pleasing, supporting someone else; responsibilities, heavy weights on my shoulders not always with happy results. No more walking the beam; I’ll take the aging with the benefits of easier living, less responsibility and lots of time to indulge my passions.
It was the dark of night on a road turned dark at sunset, each motel, restaurant, store, and gas station we passed was also dark, making Christmas Eve 1978 look not so good. My sons were with their father for the holiday; Bill’s daughters were with their mother.
Without children in the house why bother with Christmas so we decided to drive west from New Jersey so I could see the snow covered Rocky Mountains for the first time. All day on the road, passing cars piled high with brightly-wrapped presents, brought us here, west of the Mississippi River, where we were beginning to have second thoughts.
Down to less than a quarter tank of gas we spotted the brilliant light of a 7/11 convenience store like an oasis, or maybe a shining star approaching Columbia, Missouri. With hot coffee in hand, we read a sign leaning against the gas pumps at the station alongside that said, “honor-bound, pay your money in the box” we just knew a motel with a vacancy would come up next.
I had much to ponder when my kids were young and needing gifts for the teachers to take to school for the Christmas season. There were more kids in the house than money in those days and they were all in the same school in kindergarten, second, fourth, and sixth grades. Actually, money was scarce for all the days until they grew into young men.
But that year I came across the directions on how to make attractive Christmas candles. This was a project they would enjoy participating in, so they crushed ice into chips as I heated the wax and dipped the wick into square, quart-sized empty (and washed) milk containers and filled them with ice chips. Voila, when they cooled completely, I peeled off the carton paper, the water drained out and I had four, lacy Christmas candles to wrap for teacher gifts!
There is something special about people who love and care about food, where it comes from, how it’s cooked, how it is related to heritage, and the pride of it. This book, a collection of essays, blogs, recipes, and the wisdom of nonna that is handed down through the ages, is a great read about Italian food, culture, and memories. It’s a keeper to read again later. And again. And to refer to the recipes. Di Maio’s stories about Italian cookies during the Christmas holidays brought back memories of visiting my Italian girlfriend’s aunts and the wonderful cookies we (I) ate at each house. My mom wasn’t a cookie baker, but I became one when I was 10 because of the influence of these wonderful Italian aunts with their trays laden with all kinds of cookies that took weeks to make. Remember to read the chapter on Bread and Quarantines! I thought I had cooked all the Italian recipes over the years, but found ones new to me in the book, with pictures! I love this book and highly recommend it!