By Rita Watson
Special to The JournalPosted Oct. 4, 2015 @ 12:01 am
Today we have get-togethers and parties, but when Grandma would reminisce about a large gathering of food and family, she called the event “a time.” My younger sister, Lois, gathered old family photos into a pictorial family history. Looking through it again the other day, there were photos of our Mother’s beach parties with her coworkers from the telephone company.
Grandma often talked about those gatherings. She said the girls would create “a time” to take her mind off her worries about the boys at war. “And what did I do all day? I cooked for them,” she both pouted and smiled.
Technically “a time” was more than just a gathering, it was a term associated with a significant event. When our Mother talked about creating “a time” at the Water House, she said they would find an excuse to make it special. Party excuses ranged from letters from fiancés, to someone announcing talk of marriage, or a celebration for one of the women receiving a promotion.
Perhaps the best description of “a time” is portrayed in the book by Ed Iannuccilli of Bristol, “Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner.” His father defined “a time” as parties after graduation, a wedding ceremony, funeral, or Holy Communion. But during the war, Mother and her sisters stretched the meaning to include an old-fashioned good time even on late summer days.
The Water House was a perfect place to gather because its front lawn stretched to the beach. And there was never a need for a rain date. Between the wrap-around porch and the entry foyer with its window seats, 30 to 40 people could comfortably party and enjoy Grandma’s cooking.
Grandma told us, “I would make my fried pizzelles, pour fresh-cooked tomato sauce over them and then add shredded mozzarella. You should see how those girls gobbled them up. And my stuffed artichokes — they couldn’t get their fill.”
Apparently these were just snacks. No gathering would be complete without Grandma’s fried sausage and peppers, her handmade ravioli, and eggplant Parmesan. I can just hear her say, “Mangia. Mangia. This will put some meat on your bones.”
Then, as she did with us always, after heaping seconds of ravioli onto our plates, she would remind us: “Save some room. Papa will be home soon with the Italian pastry.”
But to her partying daughters, their girlfriends, and a few men who did not make the Army, our aunt said Grandma would add: “Until Papa gets here, mangia. It will take your mind off your worries. And trust the good God to bring our boys home. Then just wait and see what a time we will have.”
Rita Esposito Watson, a Journal columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom”