My grandparents (my father’s parents) are your typical New Jersey Italian Americans. My sweet, adorable little grandmother wearing her Sunday best for mass and washing my mouth out with soap for saying “pee” instead of “tinkle.” My stubborn, teddy-bear of a grandfather, affectionately called “Pops” or “Poppy,” with his big gold pinky ring, strong nose, and consuming love of the motherland: Italy. Watching my grandparents cooking one of their infamous early Sunday dinners is quite the scene. There’s my grandmother burning something in the oven, dropping a spoon with sauce and scuffling about the tiled kitchen floors to clean, some playful bickering with a few Italian cuss words, and a couple “get out of my way!”s . Despite the chaos, my Pops always managed to masterfully prepare a flawless meatball or the perfect basil pesto.
Cooking was always an event – the main event. The party didn’t start when everyone arrived for dinner. The evening started when the first glug of olive oil was dropped into the pan, signaling the beginning of a beautiful preparation of a delicious, Italian meal. You were pulled in by the smells of a fresh marinara sauce being simmered or the sight of those fresh stacks of mozzarella and garden tomatoes, drizzled ever-so-lightly with olive oil and topped with basil. Sounds always included clinks of wine glasses filled with full-bodied Italian reds and my Pops’s favorite Frank Sinatra album (if you could hear it over his own renditions). Watching my Pops twirl my grandmother around to “That’s Amore” is something I never want to forget.
I imagine that in 10 years, when I’m a wildly successful culinary icon, these will be the first two paragraphs of my memoir that aim to explain the inspiration behind my epic cooking journey. Icon, eh? A girl can dream.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to introduce my grandparents, who taught me to live to eat, not eat to live. When I asked them if I could come over for a light Sunday dinner, they asked the question, “Are you going to bring that thing-a-ma-jig?” That thing-a-ma-jig of course, is the spiralizer. And of course, I was bringing it.
Lu came along not only for the feasting, but to take a few pictures of yours truly in my grandparents’ beautiful backyard. I think he did a pretty good job of capturing their gorgeous, country-style home… Save your snickering, because yes, there is countryside in New Jersey! See, just look:
Jersey chic, right?
Unfortunately, it will be near impossible to ever get my sweet grandparents to prefer spiralized pasta over the real thing- they won’t even cook whole wheat spaghetti! It would be the equivalent to asking Confucious to replace white rice with cauliflower rice: it ain’t happenin‘! However, my grandparents really do like zucchini pasta and were happy to make a “side” dish with my Pops’s infamous pesto. Claps all around!
Even though there was no specific celebration, there was definitely no shortage of champagne, as always…
And to my grandmother’s preference, with strawberries…
And when the champagne was done, the wine was corked…
Dinner was grilled steak, button and oyster mushrooms, steamed garlic broccoli, slices of Italian bread, fresh Jersey corn, and most notably, pesto zucchini pasta…..
Most importantly, we were all in good company…
To end those few introductory paragraphs to my inevitably best-selling memoir, I’d conclude like this:
When we left my grandparents, we had eaten our weight in carbohydrates, but we were happy. When my family left, my sweet grandmother and proud Pops walked us out the front door, waited for us to get in the car and waved goodbye as we peeled out of the driveway, ready to detox but excited for next Sunday.
Luckily, this Sunday was much lighter…. thanks to zucchini pasta.