This time of year brings lots of traditions. One that I particularly look forward to is our annual holiday dinner with our close friends – Yvonne, Lorena and their families. The tradition started about 8 years ago, when Yvonne's mom (Momma Pinto), would invite a whole group of Yvonne's friends over to her house for a spectacular feast. I never understood the phrase 'soup to nuts' until my first Momma Pinto dinner. These meals were filled with not only tons of great food and wine, but lots of laughs and love as well. We particularly looked forward each year to the reaction of the newest person to attend the meal (aka - the rookie). One year that particularly sticks with me is when our friend, Sara, stood up and proudly said "oh man, that was the BEST pasta I ever tasted. I am SO FULL!!" This was after the first course. We all just shook our heads and told her, lovingly, to sit down and buckle in for the gourmet ride of her life. Later that night, our friend, John, decided to challenge Momma Pinto as to how much food she could possibly have readily available. He teased and asked if she ever made ham. Within minutes, ham appeared on the table as if Houdini himself were present. John was speechless...I just sipped my amaretto and smiled.
Momma Pinto with Julianna, 2004
Another memorable event that occurred this night was when we all discovered that we were clean out of wine. What to do?!?! Within seconds, Momma Pinto rushed to her special cabinet to produce a bottle of Pesce Vino...wine that was in a fish-shaped bottle. We laughed so hard, that our overstuffed bellies hurt. For the next few years, everyone showed up to the dinner with a bottle of Pesce Vino to get the festivities rolling.
A few years into the dinner, the crowd had dwindled a bit, but the fun and festivities were stronger than ever. The last time we had dinner at Momma Pinto's proved to be the most entertaining to date. Lorena's parents joined us this time, which meant lots of great stories, Ernesto's home-made wine and fresh pannetone shipped directly from Momma Pinto's cousins in Italy. The night was capped off with all of us laughing hysterically at this stuffed doll that, when you squeezed it's belly, counted down from 10 to 1 to scream "Welcome to the Year 2000!" – for some reason in a British accent. Unforgettable to say the least!
Sadly, about a year or so after that, Momma Pinto lost her long-fought battle to cancer. It was at her funeral, when her nephew was giving his beautiful eulogy, that he spoke about his aunt's special group of friends. She referred to them as 'kitchen friends,' because all of their conversations and time spent were usually done at the kitchen table. Lots of food and wine obviously included. We were all sad on the outside, but at that moment, I know that we all smiled on the inside, because we all knew that we were included in that elite group.
We still gather together every holiday, whether it be at a restaurant or at one of our houses. The meals haven't been nearly as grand, but our friendship still makes for the perfect evening. This year, Lorena and her husband Mike hosted and did a fantastic job, bringing our annual event back to full force. There was lots of laughter, delicious food, great story telling, and of course Ernesto's home-made wine. And we all know that Momma PInto was enjoying every minute of watching her kitchen friends celebrate yet another festive holiday.
Welcome to the year 2009!
Julianna and Daniella, 2008
Rosa preparing the big meal
Kitchen friends sharing their big meal!
Julianna and Yvonne
Yvonne, Lorena, Julianna and Daria