With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

Treasuring Memories: The Table Where Mangia Spelled Love

Gram believed that tension and stress would dissipate at her table of love.
This post is a response to I Wish I Had Asked by Abigail Brenner, M.D.

As my sister and I talked about the pastry shop that Grandpa owned, she reminded me that it was his sister Zia Agatha who taught her how to knit and crochet. She would make little scarves and crochet ornaments for the Christmas tree. The most beautiful family crochet design was one that Gram made—a tableclothe of stars that covered the mahogany dining room table.

In the center of the table was a bowl of wax fruit. Despite its formality, on nights and holidays, the dining room doors opened for anyone who happened to stop by.

Although I had been collecting vignettes about growing up in an Italian household and Grandma’s lessons in love, after reading I Wish I Had Asked I began to write even more stories and treasuring the memories. I encourage you to follow Dr. Brenner's advice.

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The Table of Love

Our grandparents believed in breaking bread together and savoring Gram’s homemade pasta, a daily staple. At Thanksgiving, the turkey shared a place with her ravioli. The Christmas goose always sat facing her manicotti. The Easter leg of lamb nestled next to her lasagna.

In her dining room, Gram said, we could learn about people and love.

Sitting around the welcome table she helped us perfect the art of reading expressions on people’s faces—listening to the questions they asked or did not ask, and understanding their laughter, snickers, and silence. She would remind us to watch for sadness or tension in case she missed seeing something when she was back in the kitchen getting more food to bring to the table.

Our grandmother spent hours preparing meals. After some 12 of us, including cousins in the neighborhood, sat and said grace she would run her finger from her lips to her stomach and proclaim: “Four hours cooking and just minutes while it goes from here to there. Eat slowly. Talk. Listen. And tomorrow we will all meet again—God willing.”

Grandpa sat at the head of the table with a giant wooden spoon. If one of the boys began to tease—or if we all got the giggles—he slammed down the spoon while bellowing “Silenzio.” We froze until he broke the silence, reminding us to be grateful. “Now, thank God and your Grandma again for this feast.”

Gram believed that the table was sacred. No matter how much we may have disagreed with one another, she was convinced that any argument could be settled at her table. When she sensed tension, she magically produced a cup of hot demitasse and freshly made biscotti.

“Mangia. Mangia. Try this for me,” she would say. And who could refuse her?

With a kitchen filled with baking breads and pastry treasures, we knew that once she said, “Sit. Eat,” whatever ill feelings may have been brewing within us would simply dissipate.

Adapted from Italian Kisses: Gram's Wisdom

Photo from Craftyville.com

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson /All Rights Reserved

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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