Thursday, December 28, 2006


Once upon a time, in a land far away (Chicago in the early 1980's), I had embroidered small wall hangings for the Italian aunts who hosted the family Christmas dinners, Auntie Julia (a/k/a Auntie Cheech) and Auntie Yolle. The embroidered work had a white background with "Christmas by Julia" and "Christmas by Yolle" embroidered in red. My daughters told me their aunts hung up the small ovals every Christmas, even after I was no longer a part of the family.

Those two dear souls have since left us; Julia passed away several years ago and Yolanda left us a year ago last August. The legacy they left was wonderful memories of Christmas featuring their homemade ravioli. Neither one had daughters, and Yolle's sons have no interest in cooking, yet their nieces and grandnieces have picked up the baton and have continued the tradition.

Aunties Cheech and Yolle spent about three days on the preparations; one day for the filling, one day for the pasta and filling them; and one day for the sauce. When they could no longer manage it on their own, it took several nieces, sisters and sisters-in-law to help out. It takes a village to make the meal. Well, several villages; Elmwood Park, River Forest, Lake Forest, Des Plaines and Hinsdale. From the stories I've heard, a wonderful bonding experience.

This year is Jenni's and Tim's first Christmas in their new home and Jenni wanted to continue the tradition, even though the preparations would be made with the non-Italian side of the family. But once upon a time, I did have personal instructions from Auntie Yolle on how to make the ravioli.

Jenni had the filling ready by the time we got there, and that Saturday, we prepared the pasta.

Jenni prepares the dough......

.....and starts kneading it.

Then the rolling started.

Jenni kept imitating her aunts; "Tinner, tinner!" she'd say. "If you tink it's tin enough, keep rolling to make it tinner."

Tim's t-shirt either expressed his thoughts on the process or he was early for Talk Like A Pirate Day. (Actually, it was the name of his basketball team)

Mom and Meghan filled the raviolis and cut and crimped them. Mom had difficulty getting into it. We had just started rolling out the dough and she said, "If this doesn't work, we can always make a pot roast."

We assured her it WAS going to work.

She also mentioned that McDonald's was going to be closed on Christmas Day and suggested a back-up plan.

We've always accused her kidded around about the fact that my sister Carol is the Golden Child. She can do no wrong. During the rolling process, Mom mentioned that Carol prepared the perfect Christmas dinner when she and Dad were there the week before; she popped a frozen lasagna into the oven and didn't have to deal with the fuss and muss. But then, Mom and Carol don't enjoy cooking, whereas I do and Jenni and Meghan are developing nicely in that area.

But we wore Mom out and she headed for the couch.

And then.......... it was Christmas morning!

Jenni also prepared another traditional meal in her family; Christmas breakfast of Aebelskivers, fried apples and bacon.

I was usually the first one awake in the morning and asked Jenni if there was anything she wanted me to start when I woke up. She told me that she could handle it. Christmas morning, she was awake before I was. My assignment was cooking the bacon and sausage. Other than asking me a couple of questions, Jenni handled the fried apples and aebelskivers herself and did a wonderful job.

Later, Tim confided in me that Jenni set her alarm to make sure she was up before me to make sure I didn't get things started before her.

And then it was time for the presents:

By the way, you may have noticed the presence of a dog.

This is Sammy. I accused Jenni and Tim of renting a dog for the holidays, but they were dog sitting. They were also cat sitting, but they didn't have the cat at the house; Tim went to the cat's home every morning and evening. I always thought cats were fairly self-reliant, but this cat needs specially prepared food and apparently is a bit of a diva. Jenni mentioned that in their small town, those that stay at home for the holidays end up doing the pet sitting.

They did enjoy having Sammy and are considering getting a dog. Even though it means getting up early in the morning for dog chores.

For the early morning walk, Jenni "walked the dog" by standing on the steps to the deck holding the leash while Sammy did the walking in the back yard.

And then it was time for the ravioli.

They were good. Since my parents didn't seem overwhelmed by the idea, we also prepared steaksoup as a back-up for them.

Meghan sneaks in with the devilled eggs she prepared.

Following dinner, there were the traditional post-pasta comas....

And then the football game.

The next morning, we all headed to the airport and went in different directions; Jenni and Tim to Florida, Mom and Dad to Texas to visit my younger sister Janice, and Meghan and I back to St. Louis.

I think for future ravioli making, I'm going to buy a pasta machine. It has no difficulty with the "tinner tinner" and your arms don't hurt as much the next day. (I left that part out. Our arms were KILLING us. On top of that, Meghan put guns to our heads and made Jenni and I go to the gym and work out, so other muscles were sore as well.) For the purists in the crowd, the pasta machine I have in mind is made by Italians. I'm willing to loan it out and would ask for nothing in return.

Except for the family brigidini recipe.



Kafaleni said...

ooooooooh... that looked wonderful, Sly!!

Jenni & Tim's house looked great.. and then there was the food... and the cute little doggie.. and the family...

oh, and Happy New Year!

El said...

What a warm, nice, wonderful family Christmas. I enjoyed you sharing it with us. Thanks. :)

p.s. I love the double front door.

Jenni said...

I did NOT set the alarm. I was just excited about Christmas morning.

Anyway, well told :)

Blogchik said...

I have to ask--what in blazes is an aebelskiver? An apple-something?

I'm glad you had such a great Christmas!

I can relate to the 'tinner, tinner' bit. My mom and I made my grandmother's recipe for an Armenian pastry called nazook, an all-day affair, and it seemed we were rolling those suckers out forever. I kept saying, "I wish we had a stand mixer! I wish we had a stand mixer!"

Happy New Year!


Jeff Meyerson said...

Nice story. The ravioli (yum!) looks great and the dog is adorable.

Leetie said...

GORGEOUS house. I want those floors!!!

You all are too cute. :)

LabSpecimen said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful family time. And I love Jenni! Sharing the joy of cooking with your daughter? Priceless! BTW, sharing it with a son? Just as priceless.

I need to call my kids and remind them how much I love them.