Christina's Table

Feeding Your Body, Mind and Spirit through Food (hopefully)
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Hello and Welcome to Christina’s Table-

A girl and her grillI can’t tell you when my love of food began. I think that I was always in love with it, but didn’t know it. Like the unconditional love of family, I took food for granted. I thought everyone knew the joys of picking their vegetables from the garden, having really fresh meat (don’t ask- I don’t think you really want to know), or foraging for spring greens and mushrooms. We would spend hours picking nuts just to have them for baking during the holidays and we always ‘put up’ our food in season, either through canning or freezing, for use over the winter. But gardening was only part of the story.

We ate. Not only regular everyday meals, but on holidays we had our entire family together. Pies made from fruits we had canned (or frozen) earlier in the year, hams that my grandfather had cured, and breads that my mum and aunts had baked. They were feasts, and not just feasts, but memories.

I didn’t realize how blessed I was until my mum and I moved to the ‘city’ at 7. That is when I stopped eating fruit. Fruit from the store tasted sour and inedible to me and it wouldn’t be until years later that I would rediscover the joys of fresh fruit. One summer when I was 15, I was spending the day with my grandma- my dad’s mum (my mum and dad divorced when I was very young- but my dad’s family always thought of mum as one their own and still after 30 years talk about her food at family gatherings).

Grandma, who was not capable of cooking any more because of her arthritis, started directing me in the kitchen. She began with what needed to be put out to thaw and proceeded to direct me through the meal, it was my first lesson in menu planning and timing. I will NEVER forget her horror at my inability to cut up a chicken. (What do you mean you don’t know how to cut up a chicken!!!) She walked me through it and later she walked me through my first blackberry (I actually think it was a Dewberry) cobbler. Using me as her hands, she had ‘prepared’ all of my mum’s favorite foods in anticipation of her arrival for dinner. This was one of the first times I recognized the preparing of food, and the joys of feeding someone as an expression of love. And later when I was 18 I took a watermelon, which I had nurtured for weeks in my garden, to my Grandma. I remember it was so large that it had to ride in my backseat for 1100 miles. It was that melon that reenlightened me to the joys of fresh fruit, and my Grandma was so excited and proud, she talked about how great it was until she died. Food had become a common language between us, and recognition of love.

One of our favorite family memories, as told from a family friend, was that she was over visiting when I came out of the utility room carrying a quart jar of home canned tomatoes as if it were gold, begging mum for macaroni and tomatoes for dinner (still one of my comfort foods). I was 12. Ironically, many many years later, her youngest son would go to CIA while I did Cooking Fundamentals at L’Academie de Cuisine. My mum had carried a Smithfield Ham in her suitcase 2000 miles away for her, and now our friend ships me fresh Hatch Chilies, so that I may roast them and freeze them to have throughout the year. So, the circle of food continues, as does the love.

My world exploded in my 20s when I moved to Naples, Italy. I am not sure I can even begin to explain the impact it had on my life, but to say the least it was never the same. I had the serendipitous occasion of renting a villa beside a French (Jean-Pierre and Bernadette) family in an all Italian neighborhood except for ourselves and another American family – who would become known to me as Uncle Dean and Aunt Mary Ann. Friday nights were feasts among our three families, five course meals with wines to die for (this was the start of my wine education as well), Sunday afternoons were four hour eating events, and almost everyday was a gastronomic marvel shared with friends who would become family. My three years there taught me the significance of ingredients, marriage (a congruency of taste throughout a meal), and company, traits that would become a holy trinity to me. But the bottom line was love, a love of giving, sharing and being, which became a circle for us, it didn’t matter who was the cook or at whose table it was served, it was all about the enjoyment of the meal and the company.

These are some of my first experiences of seeing how food spreads love, and that is why I am here. To share my experiences with food, my memories around a table and my love for both, while hoping you find joy at both my table and yours.

Cheers and Happy Eating!!