I’m an Italian Mamma; food is my creativity, my outlet, my gift to those I love.
When the kids were small, I mastered the fine art of home made chicken nuggets. I learned to make baked macaroni and cheese. I made delicious home made soup.
When they grew up, I mastered chili with green salsa, chicken parmigiana, chicken pot pie.
As the Mamma, I considered it my job to provide meals that nurtured both the body and the soul. I cooked what they wanted. To quote an old friend, “Food is love; love is food.”
Now, though, my babies have grown up, moved away, and established kitchens of their own. I no longer rush home to make the meals that will hold them close to me. Now I am feeding only two. The delicious pressure is gone. Now dinners are smaller and freer and easier to create.
Now food is love for my first true romance, my honey, my partner, my friend. Now dinner is lamb chops or home made ravioli or locally raised beefalo steak. Food is still love, but many a night that love is made of leftovers from the night before. Pasta, pizza, pork roast, beef stew; it all heats up as a filling meal the next day.
But one thing that has not changed with the advent of the empty nest is that dinner is never, ever a meal of fish or shellfish.
When the kids were small, they didn’t like fish very much. As they grew, Matt learned to love shrimp, but no other seafood. Tim was allergic to shellfish, so this devoted Mamma never even considered cooking it.
And the love of my life, my husband of 34 years, will eat fish if I make it, but he doesn’t enjoy it. As a good Italian Mamma, that means that I don’t ever cook it!
Tonight I am at home alone. Paul is having dinner with an old friend who is struggling through a difficult time. The kids are in their own homes, making dinner for themselves. I am here, all by myself, in a house that is empty of anyone needing love or nurturing.
Anyone other than me, that is.
Today I went to the grocery store to fill the larder for the week. Apples and orange juice, mouthwash and wheat bread; I filled the cart with everything that we would need to get through another work week.
And then I came to the fish market. And I saw the blue mussels.
Tonight I made homemade wheat bread, more coarse and less sweet than what my family likes. I steamed a pound of mussels in butter, garlic and white wine, a meal that no one else would have eaten. I poured myself a cold glass of white wine, dipped the hot bread into the luscious buttery broth, and popped those garlicky mussels into my own grateful mouth.
Tonight, I fed myself.