“Comfort and Joy”
‘Tis the season of many emotions. Certainly this time of year can bring joy. There are parties with family and friends, Christmas Carol sing-alongs, and, if you’re lucky, tuba concerts… really–just imagine 200-plus tubas playing “Silent Night” in the Rotunda of a state Capitol!
But this season can also be a time of longing and sorrow, especially for those who have lost people they love. That’s when comfort steps forward. Sometimes that comfort needs to be extended to others dear to us or to community members; sometimes it needs to be extended to ourselves, as well.
I took a long walk on a very cold day this week to be with some sad, nostalgic feelings I was having. I was missing my parents. I was missing their spirit, their personalities, their companionship. I conjured up as many visual memories as I could of all the festive family Christmas gatherings we had shared and all the Italian goodies that accompanied them.
I had already surrounded myself with many of those treats–fresh pesto sauce and home made pasta, biscotti for dunking, and torrone, a chewy almond honey nougat candy, with a traditional wrapping featuring a Florentine woman in her elegant garb. And every morning I enjoyed pieces of panettone, a light egg sweet bread with raisins, a mainstay of my Christmas holidays.
After my walk, I felt better. When I returned home, I got out my family cookbook and looked through photographs, stories and recipes that conjured up even more memories. Then serendipity struck–twice. A friend messaged me questions about my mother’s lemon-corn risotto recipe. It was fun to pass on what I thought my mom might say. Then I received this one-line e-mail from a friend, “Nostalgia is a coat you wear to keep warm.” Wow. Thank you, Chad.
To cap off the day of reminiscing, I convinced John–it didn’t take much– to go to Lombardino’s, our favorite Italian-American restaurant in Madison. The current owners describe their cuisine as “the way Italians would cook if they lived in Wisconsin.” I like that! In addition, they say, “For us, there is comfort in food. There are memories in food. Our goal is to give guests not just a meal, but a memorable dining experience. Food nourishes our bodies, but we aim to nourish the heart and soul as well. ” Can you tell why I like this restaurant?
Just walking in there was like walking into one of the many restaurants my parents and I frequented in North Beach, San Francisco, in the 50’s. The decor with images of Venice here, Sicily there, the spirited conversations of families and friends, the warm wait staff. And the food–all was perfect from the sourdough bread and olive oil, to the Caesar complete with anchovies, to my Spaghetti alla Bolognese pasta and John’s Garganelli in Boar Ragu to the budino. And let’s not forget my homage to my dad and mom–a Manhattan!
That dinner provided a comforting conclusion to my day of nostalgia, a day I cherish for all the poignant memories.
Dear readers, I so appreciate your being a part of my community. I wish you a holiday season of “comfort and joy,” health and love. Buon Natale!