Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

I still remember noisy Sunday lunches at Nonna’s small house. Although the dining room was used only once a week, closed, clean and dark, every Sunday it seemed sacred and seemed larger.

Although we didn’t live far from each other, the Sunday meal was the occasion to spend time together and pay our respects through food, each in his own way, to a value shared by us all: the family. I remember the vivid scents of that day and the thought free and rowdy rite which had its own rules and even a pinch of formality.

Once in a while, those odors return, always the same: when opening a drawer in an old house, in a colorful market in a remote town during a trip, next to unknown people seen through a crowd. It’s as if I immediately returned to the Sundays of my past, to those far away meals.

The tablecloth (the good one), was set early in the morning. The sauce simmered in the pan from the early hours of the morning; home made ravioli with fresh spinach and the shepherd’s ricotta. My aunt and mother preparing the always present crostini.

Then the meat, the roastbeef or roast, according to the season. And lots and lots of bread, white and saltless: some ate only the crust, others the inside, some thin slices, others wide. Up until the eagerly awaited “dolce”, dessert, preceded by cheese “to clean your mouth”.

Places at the table had a specific order: grandpa, who fondly surveiled the group and was in charge of the wine. Next to him the men, sons-in-law, the two sisters, my mom and my aunt, and then us children. We ate a lot, too much.

The baroque architecture of the four phases of the Italian meal consolidated during this moment; the canvas presents a rich assortment of antipasto, centered on crostini and cold cuts and created by the cook’s talent and the season.

Then a first course of pasta, fresh or “dry”, meat with a side dish of vegetables, and the ever- present dolce. Then, of course, the coffee that fills the room with its exotic perfume as soon as it bubbles of from the coffeepot. Chianti wine on the table, historically in beautiful and large flasks, and generously poured into glasses.

Even the children tasted the wine; “cosi’ fa sangue” (wine makes blood). Duing the gastronomic marathon we spoke about everything, sometimes with sour conflicts, but always frank.

When I was a child, I sometimes found it boring to go eat at my grandparents’ on Sundays. I felt obliged to complain, to hurry and grow up and have my independence.

But that friendly, non invasive way of relating to so much food, the sense of the  good and beautiful, seems to have molded my way of being, my “person”; it was a sort of sentimental education made of nibbles and words. The Sunday meal is still a cardinal moment in the lives of our families.

Many years have passed and the children of yesterday are the parents of today. Grandparents are still grandparents, even if faces and names have changed. It is curious to see how certain situations return and repeat themselves.

The odor of food is still the main connection: the sauce, the perfumes, the long and elaborate preparations dedicated to that event, a certain politeness while gettin ready to leave the house in the morning, hurrying not to be the last to arrive (Nonno wants to eat early).

I ring the bell. We aren’t the last. The children run around happily and let their granparents kiss them. I can see a sweet melancholy in my grandparents’ eyes, enchanted by the festive movements of their grandchildren. Everything has been ready for hours.

The house wraps us in its odors, and I can’t resist the temptation to grab a crostino from the table, enjoying my mother’s reproach. A new Sunday meal has begun.

Francesco Sorelli –