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Antipasto. We used to have it at every holiday meal. A large (or maybe two) tray of a variety of meats, cheeses, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes that, as its name translates was served “before the meal”. Its origins are Italian but my dad, who enjoyed antipasto probably more than the meal itself, wasn’t. Irish as the inside of the Blarney Stone, although he had a smattering of mutt thrown in for good measure. I think he married into antipasto since my mom’s parents were both Italian and the holidays were clearly excuses to eat…a lot…especially of the things you only had but once or twice a year.
I can clearly remember the large glass trays that we used and the preparation. I bet every family has their own version. First, the layer of lettuce, then the layer of sliced tomato, then the layers of cheeses, provolone, some prosciutto, cappicola, some genoa salami, a sprinkling of pepperoncini, some cherry peppers, olives. There were additions but usually no deletions. The tray was piled high and hardly any of it was left over when the first course was through.We wouldn’t think of a holiday without it — I think my dad would have cried. I personally think it was his favorite part.
This afternoon, I was making up a shopping list for our Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing big — just our family and my sister and her family – as low stress and casual as Thanksgiving can get. I asked Tom who was sitting nearby if I was forgetting anything from the list and threw out an appetizer before dinner and then “antipasto?” It was like a blast from the past. I have not made an antipasto since my dad passed away. Why? I don’t really know, I’m sure that my boys would probably love it and enjoy it, but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same. Dad was the one that lived for the antipasto and I don’t know if it would be the same without him at the table to join us. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a subconscious sign of respect to recognize the fact that he no longer sits at the holiday table with us. I can’t seem to put my heart into it when he’s not here to enjoy it, considering it really was because of my dad that it was included with every holiday meal regardless of the occasion.