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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Family, Friends, Food And Fun!

I grew up in a very close family with a lot of Aunts, Uncles and cousins.

When I was little, we left Long Island and headed into Queens every Sunday to my dad's parents' house.  There we met with all the cousins.  There were a lot of us since my grandparents lived upstairs but my Great Aunt's family lived downstairs  Therefore, on Sundays, everyone was at the house visiting.
Dinner was traditional Italian Sunday dinner - it always started with some cut of pasta with all the gravy meat (meatballs, neck bones, sausage, braciole and sometimes chicken and/or pork such as pieces of pork chops or ribs).  The various meats in the sauce (gravy) made it delicious.  We ate dinner early on Sundays.  Usually around 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m.

Food brings people together. It is true.  I loved to cook from a very small child.  I used to cook with my grandmothers and mother all the time.  If I wasn't helping, I was watching.  We didn't just cook. We talked.  We laughed.  We learned, from one another.  Not just about the food and how to prepare it, but about family history, current events, etc.  My grandmothers would tell me about the "old days" and I loved to hear those stories.

One of my grandmothers was a seamstress.  She would tell me about her job, making women's undergarments, making jeans, etc.  A lot of kids barely know their grandparents, I knew mine well and they taught me not only to cook, but about the world, about people, family values and morals and more.  I cherish the time we spent cooking together because it was so much more than simply cooking.
My mom with her granddaughters.  It's a tradition for them to bake for Christmas together. 
I always included my own children in cooking and baking (when I was able to years ago before all my allergies and asthma) and they too are very close with their grandparents.  There's a family tradition of all the granddaughters baking with my mom for Christmas!  They have a ball, not only are they baking delicious homemade treats made from scratch, but they are talking, laughing, playing and having fun.. Music is always playing in mom's kitchen therefore, there's dancing as well.

Preparing for the holidays was a ton of fun.  Christmas Eve we always serve seafood. We have shrimp made various ways, filet, lobster, scallops, clams, cod and more. We also have a pasta dish, with either white (oil and garlic) clam sauce or red clam sauce.  It used to be my favorite meal of the year.  Sadly, I can no longer eat any of it.  However, I still love Christmas Eve and Christmas because there's more than simply the food.

The fun antics helping mom make meatballs Saturday night for Sunday dinner 

The preparation and the serving of the food is not work to us, but instead fun.  There's so many ways to have a good time, from shopping together for the menu items (I used to shop a lot when I was younger, I'm no longer able to), to the preparation and serving (I now only prepare my food).

Dinner is only part of the holiday celebration. We generally have several games taking place as well. Summer celebrations involve the pool and outdoor games.  See video below.

Family, friends, food and fun!  Food brings it all together.  From the day we are born, food is involved, in fact it's involved at our mother's baby shower before we are born!

People generally send gifts of food to the hospital and/or house when a new baby is born (cookies, candy, fruit baskets) and many people make meals for the new parents (I had enough dinners for two weeks when I had my children).

Any special occasion is filled with food.  No one could imagine having any type of celebration without serving their guests some sort of food, even if it's just cake and coffee.  People love special birthday dinners. Every celebration from baptisms, to communions, graduations, weddings... all involve food.

When people die, most people will cook for the family and after the funeral the family will invite everyone either to a restaurant or to someone's home for a big meal.  Food is involved before we are born and when we die and for everything in between.

When I was booking travel, the question I got most was about the food being offered at the venue, be it a resort, hotel or cruise.  Cruises make sure the food is superb and presented exquisitely.

New Yorkers of Italian descent are big on the menu, however, there's so much more than the food as you can see from the video above.  To see some of the foods at our celebrations and holidays, watch the video below.

Have you ever heard anyone ask "how was the frisbee  game at the 4th of July party?"  But people always ask, "what did they serve", "can I have that recipe?"

I used to be able to eat like a "normal person" years ago.  The foods in my videos were for the family. There's clips in the videos of the foods I brought for myself (my own lasagna and my own pasta).

I was only able to open the foods for 4th of July because they were not steaming.  If I were to breathe in gluten, it would ruin everyone's fun, as a severe allergy attack would come on.

My Thanksgiving 2016 dinner.  I made myself a roasted organic chicken, organic veggies roasted alongside it and an organic sweet potato.   All of it was free of my allergens (gluten, nuts, soy, eggs and corn)  I also had a soup I made for myself that I didn't take a picture of.  
When they plan the menu, I plan my own menu.  Is it easy to see all that food and not be able to eat it?  No.  I am thankful because things could be worse.  I have wonderful family, lifelong friends, my own foods cooked by me, and I can have fun, in a different way than years ago, but I can still enjoy the people around me.  I'm blessed because of these wonderful people in my life.

Here's a great look at what it's like to be involved with an Italian/American Family!

I can't eat this, but...
I have this.  I'm lucky.  Some people don't have family.  I have more than enough to go around.
People don't realize how important food is to them until they see someone who can't have it.  The statement I hear most is, "I don't know how you deal with it, I would lose my mind."  You learn to deal and you can choose to be miserable or choose to count your blessings.

How do you deal with allergies/asthma/health issues when it comes to gatherings with family and friends?  Please leave a comment.

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