Living in Jersey, for as long as I can remember, Sunday would always be the day that we had our dinner – loosely translated as the big meal of the day – in the early afternoon. After church was done, donuts and crumpets reduced to leftover crumbs in a greasy white bag crumbled in the trash, and the Sunday paper swept into a corner somewhere on the floor, we’d sit around the kitchen table and wolf down my mother’s food craft of the day.
Sometimes there would be dessert, more often than not the espresso/moka pot burbled and hissed its readiness from the gas stovetop, its strong aroma layering on pungent residues of roasted meat and vegetables. A prolonged clean-up was followed by a traditional siesta. Everyone would be on their own for the remainder of the day, to pick at leftovers or forage in the fridge for whatever would fill those corners to last till the next morning’s rush to work or school.
Whenever I pick up the scent of just-brewed espresso, I time-warp through a series of such meals that are tempered by a wide range of memories. Sometimes my grandmother’s voice echoes in my head, other times I smell cigarette smoke mingling with coffee, grappa, and snapped tangerine skins or nutshells hammered by nutcrackers. In all circumstances they are good memories that synap to the present.
Today at noon the memory of those Sunday dinners crowded my head as I popped a pork tenderloin into the oven, with onions and parsnips. Served with wine (red, of course!) and a salad (oil and vinegar, or it would be sacrilege), it was the perfect amount to satisfy the beast from within. Had to top it off with the espresso, or the substance of the reminiscence would have been questioned or in vain. As I should, I didn’t feel like I had overeaten. Back then I was barely 100 pounds, and food was not a priority but an activity shared with family and friends. Didn’t have to worry about how much of or what I ate. Mom always made the meal within the budget, so it was always just enough, not too much. Didn’t panic if I missed a meal or two. Makes me wonder why that is such an issue now. For me it started when I ate like crazy to gain weight to hit 110 pounds to be able to donate blood at the Red Cross. It seems that once I got on that train I never got off. But now it’s time to put the whole food scene in perspective. Savor the experience for the tradition that it represents, and not get caught in the frenzy of eating for eating’s sake.
Smooth the crumbs off the table, make sure there is enough coffee in the bin, and make ready for the next gathering!