I hope you won’t mind one more hungry stomach eager to sit beside you at your dinner table and relish in your blogosphere. I do not come empty handed though. I bring with me a couple of anecdotes and some recipes that I hope will keep you coming back for more Zucchero.
Given that Christmas Eve is now a thing of the past, I decide tonight to relish in my craving for fish. On colder winter evenings such as this, when I am feeling slightly homesick, I remember watching my mother and grandmother effortlessly pouring over dishes like Zuppa di Pesce throughout my childhood and suddenly, wafts of freshly peeled garlic tickle my taste buds. Soon, I find myself scouring the grocery store for whole grain linguine to help recreate this family favorite. Scampi. Although it can be prepared a multitude of ways, scampi has always been reserved for those special occasions where company was expected or an entire evening could be devoted to the preparation involved in concocting such a gratuitous dish. At home in my kitchen, Rock N’ Roll High School blares through the nearby stereo and I remember my mother and grandmother and I remember…
the smell of sautéing shrimp and garlic the way my mother remembers seeing Joey Ramone for the first time in a rundown bar in Manhattan at age fifteen. The picturesque staple of rock n roll’s riches for an impressionable New Yorker, I admire the sight of a dishrag strewn on a flour covered kitchen counter. At fifteen, Joey Ramone lulls my mother’s teenage inhibitions. At sixteen, I whisk an egg and ask my Joey Ramone of a grandmother how to prevent the breadcrumbs from escaping the uncooked cutlets we prepare at sunset.
Her fingers enchant a skillet the way Joey’s stroke a mic. She too is a crowd pleaser, preparing potatoes in a pool of extra virgin olive oil. Peeled and poised for garnishing with pepper, my Nonna’s hands which age with each knead and stoke, proudly display the remnants of a once live chicken beside a bowl filled with beautifully browned carbohydrates.
No longer sixteen and able to take cues from a woman well versed in peeling garlic, it is my turn to finesse an ordinary package of pasta into a masterful mantra of flavor and forgotten pastimes. I mosey around my third floor kitchen in knitted socks not unlike my Nonna who swore by isotones slippers in the winter, hunger propelling my menacing attention to detail. Even the paprika is measured. The salt tossed in sparingly, it represents the faith all Italian cooks have in boiling water. The pot a host for transformation from otherwise inedible grains to serendipitous scampi.
Tonight is a resurrection. I unscrew the top to the sherry, squeeze the lemon and welcome the aromas of familiar dry and sweet components coming alive in an iron caste skillet. I bite my lip in anticipation and almost reading my uneasiness, the shrimp winks at me. She stands in the kitchen, hovering over the cutting board and later scrubs each dish by hand. And later I wink at my isotones slippers, the shoes I feebly fill on Monday nights while Maxwell’s around the corner hosts the next Levi wearing Johnny. It is lonely in my kitchen while Dee Dee Ramone is off banging on his drums but somewhere, Nonna stirs up appetites with her wooden spoon in a frying pan in someone else’s domain, acting as the model hostess.
… Like the Sunday dinners I learned to appreciate at an early age, this blog is represents my hosting a myopic array of flavors and fiction – memory and memoir. I hope you’ll digest and return for more Zucchero very so