December 22, 2015
Christmas is the most memorable time of year for so very many families. Our family is no different. As Italian-Americans, a Christmas holiday meal is all about Italian food and Italian family fun.
Every Christmas eve, the Ricci extended family would descend on Nonna (grandma) and Grandpa Ricci’s tiny little home in St. Paul where we would party as we waited for Santa. Now this house was piccola (tiny). And la famiglia (the family) was huge! Nonna and Auntie Carmel would scrub the basement floor and clean it all. They would set up tables for perhaps 60 people and we would eat dinner together.
Always we had baccala, dried and salted cod. All the children hated it. No matter how long Nonna spent reconstituting the fish it tasted awful. All the sauce in the world could not take that taste away.
After several other courses and loads of wine, we would re-surface to the first floor. While we girls washed all those dishes, the grown ups would set up the gifts for the adults and Santa would arrive.
We all received gifts from Santa and it was very exciting. Soon afterward we left for home to sleep and wait for Santa once more.
The next morning was a rat race to open our gifts before going to mass. Dad would always get angry because his kids wouldn’t wait to open those gifts. Oh the memories…
Dinner on Christmas day was all about mom’s side of the family. Orphelia my bisnonna (great-grandmother) usually made the pasta. We often had ravioli. She would count them as we cut them—I used to steal a raw one and she would get so angry because it messed up her count. It was a game we played every time. And these were huge ravioli stuffed with either a cheese mixture or a meat and cheese filling. Each one was about 2 inches square. When served they were covered in red sauce and meatballs accompanied them. Keep this in mind.
My cousin Maureen Lawton is a writer in the Golden Pen Writers Guild. Her group has published a book entitled Waiting at the Train Station. Crossroads, turning points and defining moments. One of Maureen’s short essays is all about ravioli and our family dinner one Christmas.
A Memorable Meal
By Maureen Lawton
Sure I like to win a competition! The following memorable meal may be considered a competition by some.
The holidays in the 1960s were synonymous with Italian food. I loved to eat, and I was good at it! My favorite food was and is: RAVIOLI.
One Christmas in the 60s, I was happy we were to have homemade ravioli for our Christmas meal. As I began to enjoy my first plate of ravioli, I think it was my cousin Jim who said, “Let’s see who can eat the most ravioli!” Since I could eat a lot of them anyway, I agreed to join the competition.
The ravioli were a good size, covered with homemade sauce, deliciously made by Muriel, Amelia and Grandma.
To this day—forty years later—I am reminded and praised for winning the competition. I ate 42 ravioli, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them!
Maureen really did it. She sat at the table and ate for an hour or two. We watched in awe. Did she have a wooden leg? Where did all those ravioli go? She out-ate us all.
We have had many memorable holiday meals at the Ricci household. We always shared laughter and stories with each dish served. And we were and are a competitive group. However, I have to say that Maureen takes the cake (or should I say “the ravioli”) with her incredible accomplishment. We reminisce every Christmas about Maureen’s meal. We want to try to beat her number. But no one can do it. Could you?
Buon Natale! Merry Christmas! Happy holiday season to you and yours.
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