When I married into my husband’s large Italian family, lots of people made the expected jokes about family “connections”. After all, the Italians originally hailed from Aragona, Sicily, so when I would explain: “Calvagna, it rhymes with lasagna,” the other person to whom I was talking would inevitably joke, “Then I should leave the gun but bring the cannoli?”
It turns out the well-connectedness is not a joke. Not really. My in-laws’ connections don’t involve guns though, but they do involve cannoli.
We had my daughter’s party to celebrate her quickly approaching fourth birthday. Grandma brought the cake. Grandma’s cakes are the highlight of weddings and birthdays for cousins, aunts, uncles and close friends. Almost every important occasion in “the family” has been celebrated with one of her cakes.
After an afternoon of satiating ourselves on BBQ pulled beef sandwiches (my mother-in-law’s recipe from the family cookbook), coleslaw and chips, we dug into the Cinderella cake and unwrapped packages.
Eventually my daughter fell asleep in Grandma’s lap, and slowly the company left. The house returned to its usual state of disrepair, and my husband and I began putting up the leftovers in the kitchen.
“Where did these pepperkakors come from?” he asked referring to our cookie jar, now filled with his very favorite kind of holiday cookie.
“When did she bring these? I didn’t see her bring them. When did they get in the cookie jar?”
I just smiled.
Not a minute later he opened up one of the kitchen cabinets. “Where did all of this spray cheese come from?”
“Your mom brought it.”
“Really, when did you…”
“Hey,” he exclaimed as he opened the freezer, “where did all of these bagels come from?”
“I think your mom got them from some lady she does ceramics with who has some connections to a bakery in Rockford.”
He looked at me and just started laughing. “I have the most well connected family in terms of food on the face of this planet…birthday cake, cookies, cheese, bagels. Is there anything else? Parmesan cheese from the Italian grocer in Milwaukee, perhaps?”
“You mean the Italian grocer in Milwaukee who is the cousin of the guy who owns Bart’s garage where we take our cars for maintenance?
“Yeah.” He smiled, remembering that he was the Calvagna who made that food connection.
“No, not this time. I’ll figure the car will have to go in for a tune-up if we want a pound of Glorioso’s sausage.”
I love my in-laws. Even when they pull an emergency baby sitting job, they don’t just take care of our daughter. They take care of us too. Our palettes benefit from the roast beef, mashed potatoes and baked beans that Grandma sends home with our little one.
Just one more thing for which I can stop and be thankful for this November.
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.