Now onto our Saturday recipe.
I grew up around wonderful food. Everyone around me was cooking all of the time. During the summer, my mother and I spent a lot of time with our extended family. This consisted of my gram's brothers and sisters, (my great aunts and uncles) and their children, (my mothers cousins) and their children. As my mother was an only child, those cousins became aunts and uncles to me, and their children became my true cousins, not just once removed. The family picnics in the summer were a ball. My uncles and male cousins would play bocci, and my aunts and great aunts would busy themselves with some task or another around the folding tables that were absolutely laden with food. Sure there was the usual grill fare... but we are Italian American lest you forget, and the hot dogs and hamburgers were always secondary to the big pans full of pasta, sausage and peppers, and eggplant. Then there were the deserts, my aunt Roz's cookies and pastries and cakes and pies. Mmmmmmm.
It is easy to transport myself there. Peaches steeped in red wine. Those old school folding chairs with aluminum frames and woven, fraying, early incarnation of plastic making up the seat and back. My aunts would drag those chairs together in a circle to corral in the younger kids and they would talk and laugh. They were amazing. If you needed anything, one of them had it. Need a tissues? One had one in her sleeve. Need a band aid? Someone had one in an apron pocket. Need a toothpick? One had it. Need an aspirin? Yep. Need a maxi pad? Yep? A towel, a trowel, a paring knife, a set of rosary beads, a deck of cards, a piece of gum? Those women. They took being prepared very seriously. And no matter where it was held, at the beach or in someones back yard, it always felt the same and it always tasted the same. As my grams' brothers and sisters began to die these get togethers' happened less and less. And now, now we don't see each other at all.
When I was a teenager I started to get curious about our family. I wanted to become a bigger part of it. My mom separated herself from them in many ways. She married someone who wasn't Italian. She went away to school and achieved her Master's degree. She only had one child. Her political and social views were different. She was different. Because she was different, I was viewed that way as well.... and I didn't want to be. I wanted to be a true part of the rhythm of that larger family. I didn't want to be an odd visitor.
So when I started to cook, and bring things to cookouts in the summer, I called my "aunts" and asked them for the recipes of all that yummy stuff. They always gave them to me, happily and suprised to hear from me. Surprised I called, surprised I knew their numbers, surprised that I remembered. Their level of surprise at my interest always hurt my feelings a little... but oh well. I guess they were always more a fixture in my life than I was in theirs.
Many of the recipes are ones I have already posted on previous Saturday posts. But the easiest one, and a favorite of mine, was the macaroni salad. And that is what we all called it, even though we call pasta, pasta. If you put it in a salad, voila! It becomes macaroni. I still remember my shock at the ease of this recipe. It is a true cheat. A pragmatic version of a summer staple that my family cut corners on. A food short cut. The very best kind.
2 pounds rotini
2 bags frozen vegetables
2 bottles cheap Italian Dressing
Salt and pepper
Boil the water
Add pasta. After 5 minutes add frozen vegetables right into the water. Wait five more minutes. Strain the pot in a colander. Let cold water run over the whole thing until it is cool
Dump into a bowl. Add one entire bottle of salad dressing and some salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to party. Right before serving, squirt out another bunch of salad dressing over the macaroni and toss. Tada! Perfect every time and the easiest thing in the world.
The women in my family. How smart they all are. I wish they still hovered over me. I miss them and I crave their wisdom. These are the things my girls will never lose. The thread of family can not be dropped. It is essential to the continuation of our species.