Antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous. Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.  Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Growing up in a predominantly Italian American family, every family celebration or holiday meal featured a pasta dish, red gravy, and a stick (a loaf of Italian bread).  Whenever my extended family gathered together there was an abundance of noise, cousins and definitely food.

Each of these celebratory meals started with the antipasto, a selection of olives, cheeses, cured meats, and a variety of vegetables like artichokes and mushrooms marinated in olive oil or vinegar.  The antipasto platter glistened on the holiday table set by my Nana or mother like precious jewels.  My mouth salivated as my eyes set upon the round slices, marbled and reddish in color.  Salami, a cured Italian sausage, was always my favorite.  It didn’t matter to me how I ate it, plain slices with nothing added; slices wrapped around provolone; layered together with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, olive oil, roasted red peppers sandwiched in a piece of stick with oregano sprinkled on top; or even Americanized on Wonder Bread with mustard and American cheese.  More often than not, I would eat so much salami during the antipasto or first course that I would struggle to eat my main course.  I could eat pasta and red gravy any time but salami and antipasto were extravagant and reserved for holidays and special occasions, too expensive for normal daily consumption.  Salami was a special treat, not the ordinary bologna or imported ham that normally occupied the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator.  And I appreciated its specialness.

I was a finicky eater as a child with more of a sweet tooth than appreciation for spiciness, so salami was not the type of food I would be expected to like.  Meatballs and pasta, yes, cannoli, gelato, any one of the variety of Italian cookies my mother baked definitely.  But in addition to my sweet tooth, I developed an early appreciation for savory goodness of salami.  On more than one occasion, my parents had to remind me not to each too much salami before the main course, but I could not seem to satiate my taste for the savory treat I relished.  Moments after my parents reminded me, my little hands could be seen reaching across the table for one last slice of salami before the antipasto was put away and the pasta course was put on the table.  Although I loved pasta and meatballs, on the special occasions that antipasto was served, I preferred my antipasto to be heavy on the salami, hold the pasta.

As a child, an uncle brought my cousin and me to our first Bruins game and what I remember about that night besides my excitement over seeing Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito was that my uncle took us to an Italian restaurant for dinner before the game.

“Order anything you want,” he said to me.  I looked at the menu and asked for a salami sandwich.

My uncle was baffled.  “I said you can get anything you want, he reminded me.

“That is what I want,” I replied.

“A salami sandwich?” He laughed. “You can have that anytime!”  He tried to convince me to order something else.

I did not change my order.  For me, my first Bruins game was a special occasion and instead of celebrating it by ordering a multicourse meal, I preferred to enjoy my special treat: antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

As an adult, I now serve antipasto on my table when my family gathers at our house on holidays such as Christmas Eve.  And although the cold cut drawer in our refrigerator periodically houses salami next to the ordinary bologna or imported ham, I still consider it a special treat.  For me, it can turn an ordinary day into something so much more than ordinary.

3 thoughts on “Antipasto, heavy on the salami, hold the pasta

  1. Such a treasure of cultural memories you have here…loved how you brought out your child’s voice. You knew what you wanted! I think this is a nice example of show, don’t tell. All the writing about food is making me ravenous.


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