“Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” (“Everyone to the table to eat!”)
This was the signature sign off on my first Public Television show, "Lidia’s Italian Table," which premiered in 1998. The message was relevant then and even more so today.
Gathering at the table with friends and family is indeed a very special place to be; it’s a place of joy, peace and delicious flavors, but it is also where our bodies are given nourishment and our souls filled with love and family moments.
I am fortunate indeed that cooking – something I’ve loved ever since I was a small child-- has become my life’s work.
My years have been filled with the challenges and delights of making wonderful food at restaurants, during recipe testing sessions, at events and for television, all of which have brought me much recognition and rewards. However, my most rewarding meals are those where I cook at home for my family on the holidays.
At home, each meal—whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack—is a gratifying moment. But when it comes to cooking holiday meals, I tingle.
As the grandchildren get older and spend less time at home, the holidays become more and more meaningful. I want to pack all of those missed meals together into one festive meal.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I cannot help but reflect what this special holiday means to my family and me as an immigrant.
As an immigrant Thanksgiving is a very special holiday for us. In our kitchen, the entire family gathers around the table, and we have an opportunity to give America thanks for the gifts in our lives here.
I connect to my adoptive country by preparing the food that is symbolic of this American holiday. Although the Italian “antipasti” appear on the table, along with some pasta, I always make a turkey. It might be glazed with balsamic vinegar, but I proudly bring the whole bird to the table for all to see. There will also be cranberry sauce to go with that turkey, but it might have some quince cooked into it. And yes, there will be sweet potatoes, but I add some broccoli rabe and escarole with plenty of garlic to go along with them. Pumpkin pie and apple pie are a must at our Thanksgiving table, but there is also a tray of tiramisu nearby.
When I see my family around our table full of festive food, I think of my grandmother’s kitchen in Italy and the big family table where we gathered for our meals. It was a long wooden table with light blue painted legs.
It was at that table that we ate and nourished our bodies, but it was also where food was shared, stories were told, futures were planned and wisdom was communicated by the elders.
At that table, I was fed, nurtured and loved. I decided that I never wanted to leave that table but to stay close to it for the rest of my life. And so I remain close to that table in my own kitchen, making it my life's work.
Although I love to share my recipes and holiday traditions with my viewers and customers, I cannot forget that what is most important about my kitchen is the table where all four generations of my family will gather for this year’s Thanksgiving meal.
This Thanksgiving may your table be one full of love where food is the venue to gather with those who mean the most to you. May you not only share a delicious meal but also stories, laughter and memories.
That’s what this holiday is really about.
Tutti a tavola a mangiare!