In 1958, at only nineteen,
and married already two years to my father, my mother left her small
village in Esperia, Italy, to start a new life the states in the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. Here she was the superintendent for a 25-family
tenement. Her countryside was replaced by concrete. Life could not have
been more different so food, of course, was sometimes the only tie from
that world to this new one.
Our family did not
have a lot at that time, but food was always the freshest, using superior
ingredients. Never a can, never a box. I would classify my mom's cooking
as rustic and simple but always superb. Homemade pasta and breads, homegrown
vegetables, polenta, and jarred tomato sauce to name a few.
My memories are sentimental
and sweet yet intertwined with humor. I remember the stares at the lunch
table at school while eating broccoli rabe or frittata sandwiches, these
not being the usual fare. Or being teased by the neighborhood kids as
my mom washed snails in the courtyard with salt. (We won their favor
back by begging my mom for a few and holding snail races.) Or the day
I slipped on tomato skins during our most important day of the year:
the jarring of tomato sauce.
My mom's house was
the one with the revolving door. Feeding everyone with her food and
her smile. No one called her Mrs. DeAngelis. Just 'Paula' would do.
Today, she is forever
challenged by cooking for a changing, growing family: a vegan, a 'no-garlic,
no-onion please' eater, a carnivore son-in-law, and a food allergic
grandchild. Yet, somehow she pulls it all together with an amazing display
Mom's generosity does
not end with food. She has one of the most generous hearts and souls
that I have encountered. Thanks, mom, for showing us love the best way
you know how: from the kitchen.
Diana: Diana was
born in New York City, and now resides in Long Island. She is a stay-at-home
mom with two children. She is an active volunteer in Girl Scouts, CCD,
PTA and community projects.