The bells have certainly begun to ring, and the Holiday spirit is in the air. It’s that time of year that gives our mind, and taste buds, a chance to go down memory lane and remember all the memories of the past year, as well as the traditions that we all look forward to taking part in. Here in Italy, as one can imagine, the holiday season is very much lived around the table. Similar to the U.S., there are various meals, celebrations and traditions with family and friends. Each family has their own, possibly more so in the U.S., which always makes for a unique celebration.
My family heritage is one of the many epitomes of America. My mother’s family hails directly from the now Czech Republic, while my fathers is half Irish, half German. So growing up I had a wonderful mixture of both ethnic and traditional “American” cuisine. Living away from both sets of family, we typically travelled quite a bit in and around the holidays which sometimes made certain meals a little more difficult. But there are a few things that I remember specifically…
At my father’s parents house there was always a turkey. Even though thanksgiving was just one month removed, that didn’t stop my grandma and grandpa from cooking a perfect turkey with all the trimmings. After dinner there were always an assortment of nuts to crack, at the time I only liked pistachios and cashews, but I enjoyed the hard work for the others. My grandmother was also an amazing water-color painter, and every Christmas she would let us pull our some stencils and water colors to “practice.” Then, at some point, I would pull my Grandfather aside and we would go work on his enormous train set, as I sipped my highly milk diluted cup of coffee (I was just trying to be like him).
On my mother’s side we tended to eat much more traditional eastern european food, like bobalki and pirogies. We would sometimes have a turkey, or cook a kind of bird, but our meals there were a little less fancy, and just about spending time together. I remember helping my “Baba” bring in chopped wood for the fireplace in the basement, going and renting VHS tapes with my Uncle, shoveling snow and going sledding at the big hill near their house. There were always people to see, too. We would often eat dinner at home, and then go to a friends house for desert and coffee. Simple excuses to be around the people who you care about.
Nowadays, its a always a battle… to see who can stay in their pajamas the longest. Christmas day, now, is about making sure the nephews are happy, and that our stomachs are full. Cooking in our kitchen has turned into wonderful opportunity to be together. Everyone has different jobs, and really I think my sister and I are just trying to kick my mom out so she can finally relax, and not mess with our recipes (love you, Mom). After the presents are opened and everyone has taken a nap, the roast gets pulled out and the wine is opened.
After having lived in Italy for so long, Piedmont wines have become a staple at our christmas celebration. Barbera d’Asti has not only been a great preparation help, either with creative influence or raising meat, but also as a great pairing for the roasts and sautéed vegetables that usually come later.
So as you prepare for your gatherings of family and friends, be sure to remember to bring a bottle of Barbera d’Asti to share, a wine that is not only perfect to share, but one that is easy to pair with so many dishes. Enjoy yourselves and, Happy Holidays!
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