By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli
On March 19, our St. Monica Catholic Church held an Italian Fest to celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph. The parish had not run this event in some years; however, we now have a young, charismatic priest who is full of ideas about how to bring parishioners together. The Italian Fest certainly did this.
My late mother ran the Saint Monica Spaghetti Suppers for years. She created committees for the meatballs [everyone made meatballs off of her recipe for uniformity in taste], the sauce [again, the cooks used the same recipe for evenness of taste], the desserts, the kitchen crew, the decorations, the servers [my brother and I figured prominently in this regard], the set up, the take down, the cleaning [both before and after], the carry out protocol, ticket sales, and the bookkeeping [for she herself was a cracker jack bookkeeper]. She met regularly with the chairs of these committees so that each was kept abreast of the development of the supper as it unfolded.
The oversight of the kitchen Mama left to a successful Italian restaurateur and his wife whose eatery my family dined at on special occasions. Mama and Tony and Betty stayed in close contact in the weeks leading up to the Spaghetti Supper. All three of them were expert organizers and taskmasters: they knew what they were doing down to the minutest of details. Their teamwork resulted in highly successful Saint Monica Spaghetti Suppers for years.
It was my mother who taught me how to organize events and how to delegate committee interaction and effective leadership. Her guidance served me well in the 36+ years of planning professional and personal events on large and small scales. Mama held office in every organization to which she belonged, yet her greatest joy came in working as a volunteer at our family’s parish of Saint Monica’s. She remained cheerful, helpful, and calm no matter what situation arose. Never did she lash out or make snarky remarks to anyone; hence her popularity!
For the newly revived Italian Fest, with my brother’s help, we provided over 200 meatballs, which translates to roughly 20 pounds of meat. Our meatballs were made from our mother’s meatball recipe that we use to this day. This family classic incorporates ground beef and ground pork into the meatballs, along with seven other key ingredients. In later years, instead of meatballs, the meatball committee moved to cook a meat sauce d [far less labor intensive].
I baked Italian Lemon-Lime-Basil Shortbread Cookies, a savory after dinner dessert for the Italian Fest. Some of my cousins made deserts and served food at the dinner. Yet parishioners had come together; indeed members of my party included those from other parishes. We ate, we talked, we laughed, we ran into people we had not seen in a long time, we drank vino rosso and Peroni beer, and we shared desserts. It mattered little that the meatballs I ate [clearly not my mother’s meatball recipe] were so alarmingly salty that I drank two large glasses of water and imbibed a bottle of beer to negate the salt. I refrained from complaining too much, for I feel certain that every Italian cook feels his or her meatballs are the best. What took precedence over the shortcomings were the camaraderie and the collegiality that prevailed as we toasted the Feast of Saint Joseph.
Ciao for now.