Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pot Dreams by Barbara Quinn

I bought a new pot today. It’s a Le Creuset, a cast-iron pot that’s covered with enamel. These pots come with a lifetime warranty and unlike others that I’ve owned, they do last. I inherited two of them from my mother and after forty years they still look new, still get the job done better than any others. The new pot joined the old in the cabinet and fit right in.

That pot got me thinking about how when I was a child my family lived in an attached triplex in the Bronx. Three stairs at the front were perfect for playing stoop ball with a red “spaldeen.” The front yard had two peach trees, and a magnificent magnolia tree, tended by my grandfather. The triplex was part of a row of similar houses. My parents, brother, and I lived in the middle unit, my aunt and uncle were upstairs with my three cousins, and the ground floor housed my grandmother and grandfather. Every Sunday we gathered at my grandparents for dinner: loud, many-coursed Italian dinner.

Sunday was spaghetti and chicken day. The sauce simmered in a pot much like my new one, while everyone attended mass. At dinner there was an antipasto of various veggies, and cured meats like prosciutto and capicolla. There was fresh mozzarella and pungent provolone, several types of olives and always the wine. My grandfather had seltzer delivered. At dinner he sprayed seltzer into a small amount of wine. We were drinking wine spritzers before anyone knew what they were. I loved those shiny metal seltzer canisters with their mysterious cartridges that powered the blast of bubbly liquid. We drank wine with seltzer, or wine with water, or wine with coke from the time we could sip from a cup. No one’s an alcoholic in the family. Italians drink with their meals, not to get drunk.

We still gather for major holidays and events, but not as often. Sometimes we make gnocchi by hand, the way my mother taught me. I take out her old wood board and go through the same motions generations have gone through. I rice the potatoes onto the board, make a well and when all is assembled, knead the dough. I feel connected to my past. The new pot will make its appearance at one of these dinners. My wish is that years from now it will still be in use, providing sustenance to future generations, a part of something timeless and good.


Kathryn Magendie said...

I love reading about family traditions - and those that center around food and food preparation always capture my attention.

this is a lovely lovely post.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Paisan! (At first I thought you were having some sort of drug induced flashback. LOL) Love your rememberance of generational cooking and traditions. Nothing too much better, is there? My Dad, the Sicilian, has his favorite bread bowl, loaf pans, and a huge Magnalite sauce pot too. He's taken the time to teach any of the 12 grandkids interested in making the Italian bread recipe. Ah, family & food!

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