Of course, soup always comes first. Soup is the introduction, the first hint of the deliciousness that will follow. Naturally, I made your favorite: Grandma’s famous noodle soup. The hot, flavorful broth, the noodles that slide down your throat. You always wondered what secret ingredient made it so delicious, so familiar. Finally, I revealed to you what it was: the chicken bouillon cubes that flavored the broth. Wide-eyed, you watched me time and again, marveling at the way those tiny cubes, melting into the watery soup, could produce such big flavors. From then on, anytime I used chicken broth in a recipe, you forbade me from using anything other than bouillon cubes.
As a child, Grandma’s soup was your favorite comfort food. Anytime you were sick, you begged me to make it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – it was all you wanted to eat. As a treat, I would let you add a few Saltine crackers for a bit of texture. But once, your eyes were bigger than your bowl, and you added so many crackers that they turned the soup to mush, soaking up the broth. You grudgingly ate it but learned a valuable lesson from your mistake. From then on, you never put crackers in your soup again. thus, I am serving your soup plain today, with no crackers or add-ins. But the next course pairs quite nicely with the soup…
Bread is a staple in an Italian household. In almost any household, to be honest. Bread has so many different uses: sandwiches, toast, or even a simple bread-and-butter snack. But your favorite type of bread, and the traditional Italian way to prepare it, is garlic bread. Ah, the aroma of garlic sautéing on the stove fills the whole house day and night. One of the sweetest and most delicious scents on earth. No meal would be complete without it. Every family has its own way of making garlic bread; some buy it frozen from the grocery store, some make it from scratch at home. You always loved our family recipe for garlic bread, made with lots of fresh garlic, butter, and olive oil. But then, you discovered a new method that made it taste even better. By buttering the bread before adding the garlic and oil mixture, the butter would melt into the bread, making it even more moist and delectable. This discovery came from combining our family’s recipe with another’s. thus, compromising led to a delightfully delicious discovery. As you soak up that delicious garlic flavor, I shall prepare the next dish…
This meal would not be complete without another staple: salad. Salad is a very expansive food, since it can apply to many different food groups. Pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad. But the most common salad is the leafy green, vegetable salad. People have experimented with salad greens so many different ways: classic Caesar salad, standard Chef salad, even a vinaigrette with fruit. But the simplest and easiest salad is our family’s cucumber and tomato balsamic vinaigrette. A simple mix of greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, topped with a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season it with a little bit of garlic salt and pepper, and you have a refreshing pair to a delicious meal.
You know that funny thing about certain smells and tastes that can transport you back to where you first smelled or ate it? It’s the same way with that salad. One taste of it, and you’re transported back to Grandma’s house, remembering the many times you ate it at parties and gatherings over the years. One taste brings back memories of Christmases with homemade gnocchi, summer barbecues celebrating Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, or just a simple family dinner on an ordinary Sunday evening. One taste, so many memories. Who knew a simple salad could carry such meaning? Even now, anytime—no matter when or where—I taste it, I am transported back to your Grandma’s house. Now, to transport you back even further, we move on to the main course of your meal: homemade spaghetti and meatballs.
Spaghetti and meatballs have always been your favorite, a traditional Italian dish. There are so many factors that form the perfect recipe, so many variations in secret family recipes. It took a while before you finally convinced me to show you our family recipe and reveal the secret ingredient: the sauce. The sauce is the most important part of this dish; make it wrong, and the entire meal is a failure. Now, at first glance, it doesn’t seem that sauce would be that hard to make. Throw a few cans of tomato sauce into a pot, add a few spices, and voila! Pasta sauce ready to go. But slowly, you learned that sauce, like the best things in life, takes time to be good. The perfect combination of tomatoes and tomato sauce, with a variety of spices. But even that isn’t enough to make the sauce the perfect flavor. To make the sauce perfect, it requires the other necessary part of the meal: the meatballs.
First, you must make the meatballs using Grandma’s homemade recipe. The secret here is using ground turkey instead of ground beef and using plenty of freshly chopped onion. Their flavor is enhanced by the olive oil in which they are cooked. By adding these meatballs and olive oil to the sauce and letting it simmer together for a few hours, the flavor of the sauce explodes, thus perfecting the most important part of this meal.
However, this dish would not be complete without the ever-essential garlic, served on broccoli. Putting garlic on broccoli was the only way I could convince you to eat your veggies when you were younger. You loved garlic so much you would eat almost anything with it. Broccoli became your favorite vegetable, though you would only eat it if it was cooked with garlic. Ah, spaghetti, meatballs, and broccoli. The perfect meal. All it needs is Parmesan cheese sprinkled generously on top, and it is complete. You’d think this would be the end, but there is one final piece to this meal.
No meal would be complete without dessert to finish it off. However, the heavy dish just served requires a lighter dessert. The Italians have just the thing: the pizzelle. This light, airy cookie is the perfect finish to a full Italian meal. Not only that, but pizzelles are Grandma’s signature cookie. You used to love making them with her. You always had so much fun experimenting with different flavors and shapes. The standard pizzelle is vanilla, shaped in a circle. But you insisted on trying chocolate-flavored pizzelles and attempted to fashion the warm cookies into cones and bowls. You even tried making shells for cannoli’s, though you didn’t have any cannoli filling. Many a fun afternoon you spent at Grandma’s house, making dozens of crispy, sweet pizzelles. And a good thing too, for pizzelles were a staple at Grandma’s house. Every time we went to her house, the pizzelle container was always full of those crunchy cookies. So, you see, it is only fitting that I should end this meal with this family-favorite cookie.
I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Remember this food and these recipes, so that you may pass them on to your children someday and honor your Grandma’s memory. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll perfect one of these recipes into something even better? For now, though, enjoy your meal and your memories. Buon appetito!