The Food of Love

As February, the month of love, comes to a close, I thought you would like to read this story which is all about love, but from the angle of food. Divorced or not, we have to eat! Which reminds me of a true story my older sister told me when she was going through her divorce. Her soon-to-be ex-husband complained to the judge about paying my sister alimony, saying my sister had been an adulteress. The judge replied, “Even adulturesses have to eat!”

This was an article by Public Television’s “Cucina Amore” chef Nick Stellino that I saw many years ago in US Airways Attache magazine (December, 1997) and is reprinted with the magazine’s permission. It is his memory when he first understood the connection between COOKING & ROMANCE.

When I was a child, the traditional Sunday lunch in the Stellino household was a simple, sometimes hurried affair.

One day, I remember my mother preparing pasta with lima beans and Swiss chard—a family favorite. As soon as dessert was finished, my brother Mario and I sprang from the table to get to the soccer stadium where our home team, Palermo, was playing against our loathsome rivals from Catania. We bolted from the house,leaving our parents to a much-deserved quiet afternoon together.

When we arrived at the stadium, I realized I had left the tickets on the dresser of my room. With a resolve that is still legendary, I ran the 12 long blocks home as fast as my feet could carry me to retrieve the forgotten tickets.

As I entered the front door of the house, huffing and puffing, I heard the strains of a romantic song which I recognized as a favorite of my parents–an oldie from their dating days. I  quietly made my way to my room, grabbed the tickets, and headed out. As I passed down the hallway, I saw that the floor of the living room–our salotto–was ajar.  My curiosity overcame my anxiety to get back to the stadium since the salotto was almost exclusively reserved for receiving  guests.  I pushed the door open softly to get a glimpse of the unexpected company.

In the soft shadows of the shaded room, I saw my parents in each other’s arms, gently swaying to the music.  My mother, still in the yellow rubber gloves she wore for washing dishes, eyes closed, rested her head on my father’s shoulder. Except for the scratchy sounds of the music, the room was utterly silent.

Feeling as guilty as an uninvited guest, I quietly withdrew, closed the door behind me, and tiptoed out of the house. I don’t remember who won the soccer game that day, but whenever I think of my parents, I like to remember them the way I saw them that day—young, in love, and dancing in each other’s arms.

It is so curious how these memories of family and food are at times so vivid.  Even today, when I see my parents—a little older, a little slower, but still very much in love—I see them dancing.  I smell the rich aromas of my mother’s kitchen. And while I can’t promise that all of the recipes in my books will do the same for your memories, you can never tell what will; happen when you cook anything with a little bit of love.


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