My mother-in-law to-be Connie, is the reason the term old-school had to be coined. Native Italian and the embodiment of that deep connection to food that Italians are known for, she understands better than anyone that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. She’s determined to do all she can to keep Guy and I together and what she can do is make food so fresh and delicious that I’ll stick around just for another meal!
This year, like each year since Guy and I met, we spent Christmas Day at Connie’s house for a grand feast. Connie wakes up at 4 AM to get to work on her project of the day: feeding her personal “Top 20”.
It’s a good list to be on!
Connie doesn’t waste time with the prescribed when it comes to Christmas dinner! There’s no turkey, ham or stuffing on her table. There’s no mashed potatoes and definitely no gingerbread!
But what there is, is lasagna!
Which starts at 4 AM when this kitchen-puissant reaches for the flour, salt, eggs and water!
This is not your mother’s lasagna and it starts with fresh pasta!
But the real glory of Connie’s lasagna comes from the sauce. Every tomato used to make the sauce was grown, cooked and jarred on her own property. As were most of the seasonings. A walk through their garden any summer will tell you what the sauce will taste and smell like at Christmas.
At dinner, I like to sit near my future sister-in-law. She’s the most generous with her efforts to translate. And if you want to follow along with the conversations at the “adult table”, you’d better be speaking Italian!
I’m told it’s not even REAL Italian they’re speaking. Coming from the tiny village of San Mango Su Colore, they all speak a dialect of Italian which Is unique to that village and region. Italian or dialect, I don’t understand any of it and so I need a fast translator. Guy’s father often tells stories from youth that are hysterical! In English or Italian, you don’t want to miss them.
Hysterical laughter-at his often tragic youth.
But despite the stories of life as Patton and his troops passed through the area, despite the joys of watching three generations enjoy the family experience, and despite the sweetness of listening to Connie beg the third generation to make a fourth generation the reason to come ultimately, is the lasagna! She never disappoints.
On Saturday night we had a party at my sister’s house for my mother’s 80th birthday! It was the standard carb-fest. My sister’s house is no place for the keto-lifestyle! Pasta, garlic bread, Italian bread, strawberry shortcake, pies and cookies.
And a Buckeye game.
We drove home at halftime. Buck and I watched the second half of the semi-final game between my Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson, at home. That was probably best. It was the most crushing defeat I have ever felt as a fan of a team and I doubt I would have enjoyed sharing that moment with others. I’m considering getting rid of the jersey I was wearing that day on the off-chance that my poor choice in swag somehow caused the crushing loss. Even my mother was complaining that the Buckeyes got ROBBED! I'm still not over it.
Sitting around the house this week with my parents, I learned a lot about all things Lipton. For example: My father has never been to Philadelphia! As a lifetime New Yorker who always loved a road trip, I’d have to say he’s been avoiding it!
I also learned that there is a difference between a plate that is shatter-resistant and a plate that is shatter-proof! And I learned that lesson with a style and flare few can muster! I was late with the camera and Buck was upstairs or you’d be watching some fabulous video right now! In a moment of selfless bravery, Guy threw herself over the antipasto thus saving Christmas!
What a year 2019 turned out to be!
No championship for my Bucks and an early exit for my Yankees but still 2019 owes me nothing. Barcelona, Sedona, Phoenix, London twice, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Lake Norman, Lisbon and a career change! I need some rest just writing all that! All done surrounded by two amazing ladies and a remarkable family.
I hope that 2019 was the year your dreams came true too! And that 2020 finds you dreaming bigger!
Back to work next week!
Happy New Year!
PS That's San Mango below.