Saturday, December 20, 2014


I, like so many people in my life, grew up in a family where Food certainly takes center stage. From Holidays to Birthdays, lazy BBQ's by the pool and Sunday Supper at Grandma's or baby showers and more. Cooking was one of my father's and I shared passions. He was proud of his job as a sous chef at the Marriot, and I gobbled up every lesson he could share with me. I love cooking so much I even married a chef! wink wink. And it is often the first thing I think to do to help those I care about when they are in times of hardship. Happy, sad, healthy or sick - no matter how, who, what, where, the food in my life has been as important as the events that shaped it. My table fills every holiday with the faces of our sisters, our parents, & our children. And after kids have been put to sleep, it re-fills with our friends for annual Friendsmas gatherings. At night I listen to my kids play "eye spy" or "what would you be" as they sit around their plates - a trick I came up with many moons ago to keep them at the table, and sitting! long enough to enjoy a meal together. At our table I also get to hear one good thing one bad thing about their day and have watched them eat after school snacks while bustling through homework. Food and Gatherings are like expressions of feelings you can see and feel and taste. At least to me. They are mixed lovingly into every memory I have. And as if by magic, being in my kitchen cooking can transport me back to those places in a moment...the smells, the tastes, they are like time machines.

the Littlest Ciardi gathered around the polenta board!
I can be at my cousin's house for our annual polenta dinner and before long, in the din of our kids noise, are the echoes of our family once upon a time when We were the little ones gathered around our grandparent's table to do the same thing. I can hear Grandpa whistling while he made the gravy for the Thanksgiving turkey as I watch Collin year after year make ours. My cookie exchange is never with out thinking of Aunt Lesia "Sweet Tooth". Or remembering the year Ayden ate Aunt Krissy's rum balls! And the moment peppers and onion are in the pan, I think I smell my Poppy making his sauce.
12/18/08 we said Hello and Goodbye in one breath
For all the recipes I have made with a smile on my face, there are as many that have been made with tears. December is hard. There's Gram's birthday and our son shares his birthday with the day Papa Reid earned his Angel wings. Followed by Grandpa Lee days later. Holidays swiftly remind us of those who are missed. The true meaning of bittersweet are the celebrations you must prepare for even when you have had to say goodbye to some of the guests. So very true this season as I begin the first year with out my Poppy. The man who first tied a 3 sizes too big apron around my waist and put a wooden spoon in my hand.

Most of my go-to recipes were perfected standing at his hip.

It's hard at first. Going "through the motions", but I encourage you to celebrate anyway. I promise the reward is spending time with them. Somewhere in between the blur of forcing myself to make Grandma's favorite candied yams and remembering her smile I feel their love, and then suddenly this little recipe becomes a connection. A hug of sorts. I recall and retry many favorites once shared and new recipes that I can't help wonder how they might have enjoyed! Even when I don't get all the ingredients right, I know that the one ingredient I can not cook with out is the easiest to find, there is always Love mixed in.

Like a vault, my recipe books not only keep safe these beloved eats and treats and their  preparation methods, but these pieces of my life as well.

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