Nostalgia Food

This is delicious comfort food from
This is delicious comfort food from

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi | @tangledpasta

Today is Day 4 of coping with a ruptured disc in my back.

Instead of indulging in a succumbing to pain, I re-focused on my daughter’s arrival this afternoon. We had tickets to a Chicago Cubs minor league baseball game tonight, followed by fireworks to kick off her 4th of July birthday weekend. These plans altered when it became clear that my disc would a slow-healing process. As much as I had looked forward to the ballpark tonight, I urged her to ask a friend to take my ticket and go with her. Off they drove in her friend’s boyfriend’s big, new, shiny Ford truck. While the two girls are feasting on hot dogs, chips, and drinks at the game, I’ll console myself with a salmon patty.

I wanted to have a homemade treat for Anjelica. My thoughts turned to Brownie Pudding, a favorite childhood dish of mine my mother used to make. Ever since Mama’s death 13 years ago, I’ve come across some of these favorite recipes she used to make in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. This cookbook staple is also where I chanced upon the recipe for cream pie – coconut, chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla, and for rice pudding. Thumbing through the cookbook, I took a deep breath. Lo and behold, there it was! I served us up a small bowl full. It reminded me of the warmth of family dinners, of the nostalgia of an easy recipe with great taste in spades, of laughter over dinner with my parents and with my brother.

I have most of The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, which I use frequently. Martha Stewart cookbooks are now appearing on my shelf, too. Like any rabid foodie, I have Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, worth the money alone for her classic Bouef Bourguignon and Quiche Lorraine recipes. Yet for the comfort food of yore, I find myself turning to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for its Brownie Pudding of 1944. Serve it warm with a dollop of whipping cream and a sprig of mint for a taste of Heaven.

Ciao for now.

Buona Pasqua, Ancora

Cugina Chrissy's limoncello and chocolate raspberry-chocolate chip cakes -
Cugina Chrissy’s limoncello and chocolate raspberry-chocolate chip cakes –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Easter Sunday dawned auspiciously today:  The sky was gray and overcast.  As I was leaving for Church, rain began to puddle on the patio.  Since I had scheduled the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday in memory of my parents, Catherine “Kitty” and Frank, I realized I neglected to negotiate with the meteorologist for sunshine.  Yet halfway through Easter Mass, the sun shone, filtering through the Church’s stained glass windows.  It was a glorious omen for Easter.

My cugina [cousin] Marianne [yes, we Italians like to continuously recycle family names, which is why three-fourths of Italian women have the same first names, as do the men], invited me over for an Easter breakfast with her family.  Her father, my uncle and Godfather, is ninety-four years young, and, as our family patriarch, happily presided over my cousin’s light-as-air Belgian waffles [we Italians in the Heartland are multicultural in culinary spirit as well as ecumenical], crispy center-cut bacon, and her daughter’s delicious once-over-easy eggs.   Her husband Steve poured us shots of Amaretto di Saranno, which I poured into my coffee, thereby punching up my cup of Joe.

I was touched by my cugina’s Easter Breakfast invitation because sitting down with family reminded me of Easter Sunday breakfasts after Mass with my family.  When I was away at college, unable to get home for Easter, my mother made a point of sending me an Easter basket filled with malted milk balls, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, a large chocolate bunny, jelly beans and decorated eggs.  This year, I too filled my daughter’s furry, musical, ear-flapping rabbit Easter basket with treats and mailed it to her.   It is a worthy family tradition; it even received the Easter Bunny Seal of Approval.

My uncle’s family convened again late this afternoon for Easter dinner at his granddaughter Chrissy’s home.  My cousin follows in the family tradition of fine cooks.  She whipped up enough food to feed the Italian army:  Baked ham, potatoes, corn, green beans, and her mother prepared Italian sausage in a tomato-onion sauce for sandwiches replete with crusty Italian bread.  To top it off, dessert was limoncello cake and a chocolate-raspberry-chocolate chip cake confection.  Naturally, we imbibed vino bianco and vino rosso.  My contribution was an Italian Easter bread in the shape of a crucifix, and a bottle of hearty Chianti.

Tomorrow I am fasting. Alleluia!

Ciao for now.