Good morning. Yes, I said, “good morning”. I woke up my usual time this morning ready to go to the gym but instead, I was feeling the effects of a wonderful culinary experience from the night before. Do you like how I said that, the effects of a wonderful culinary experience? That is code word for a food hangover.
Chip and I along with my best friend Shelly and her husband Ronnie signed up for a cooking class at a local Italian restaurant, Cafe Capriccio. The restaurant is in a very old section of town and as soon as you pull up to it, you smile. We stepped in and climbed the stairs to the cooking school room. From the minute you round the stairs on the landing, you smell home, an Italian home. Food and comfort and memories of a family cooking on a Sunday or a holiday.
The room was cozy and warm and our chefs for the evening, Jim and Franco were welcoming and engaging. It was not a traditional ‘c’mon up here and take a knife and help cook’ evening. It was more of a watch and feel, smell and taste while we cook for you.
Both my grandmothers were fantastic cooks each in their own rite. One baker, one cook. They wrote nothing down and measured with their hands and eyes. These chefs did the same thing. As I stood around that stove, covered with old pots that could tell a tale of past meals and good times, I began to relax. I took some pictures, made some mental notes and just fell into a sense of peace. The rhythm of cooking, eating, having a glass of wine was easy to follow.
The asparagus with shrimp was simple. The autumn vegetables were grilled to perfection and it reminded me of my grandmother telling me that the simplest Italian foods were the best. The Stracci (in Italian means “rags” and as a culinary term means loosely cut or torn pasta) had an earthy mushroom ragu/ragout that was warm and spicy and just deep. Polenta, green beans and the Steak Pizzaiola (translated means meat in pizza style) had me feeling like I was in Naples!
It amazes me how fourteen total strangers with arguably different political beliefs, religions, and backgrounds can sit around a table and share a meal like a family. I know I am biased, but I think that is the Italian way. Food heals. Food cures. Food has no voice, no opinion, no judging or shaming. It creates a common bond and for that moment in time, people are just people. It doesn’t matter if you share a coffee and donut on the corner of 34th and 7th in Manhattan or sit for tea at the Plaza. It is the company surrounding you. Food nourishes both the body and the soul. Try and remember that.
Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the holiday season that is upon us.
As a sidebar- my friend Charlie is a loving and giving man who spent the last month or so asking his friends to shout, “I’m in!” for just $2 to buy a meal for a person at the City Mission. I think last count he had over 1280 meals ready to be served this season. I am humbled by his commitment to others and while reveling in that experience with friends last night, I am reminded that the holiday season is a challenging time for many families. Please give, if you can, to your local food banks and shelters. Make the holiday better for a local family.