When we were playing with cousins, it was hard to leave any of our outdoor games to head for the kitchen table.
"Can't we just eat out here, Ma? Why do we have to come in?"
We had all the family we needed outside-- and besides, didn't she know how hard it was to cut short a game of hide and seek? Even if it was for pasta? It was no trouble for any of us to declare someone "it" with one hand while balancing pizza in the other.
"Tutti a tavola! Right now!"
Right now was another way my mother had of saying: "You're gonna get it!" and we'd march inside on the triple after that.
There were countless gatherings with cousins and cousins of cousins when we were growing up. It didn't have to be a birthday or special occasion, it just had to be the weekend and there would be a gathering. For years, every Saturday night, we would drive to my Uncle Joe's or he and his family would come to our house. We'd feast on mountains of food; then our parents would stay in the kitchen to talk while we kids found something more creative to do. We'd trade Batman-card doubles, play Crazy Eights, and laugh so loud we'd finally be banished to the basement.
One night, when the party was at our house, my cousins, sister and I decided our entertainment was going to come from making crank phone calls. I don't remember how old we were. Old enough to be left alone but not quite teens. We were entertained alright-- but not in the way we had expected.
Paying tribute to our dual culture, we started with our Mother Tongue, and it went like this:
"E! Signo! Do you have Pasta e Fashooo?!"
Barely containing ourselves, we'd hang up and roar with laughter.
And then in English:
"Hello? Do you have Aunt Jemima in a box?
"Well, you'd better go catch her!"
And back to our roots:
"E Cumpa, pisce fritte baccala!"
Children of the 60s and 70s, take a bow. You are the geniuses behind call display and call back services. My gang of dialers can't take credit for any of it, however. Our prank-calling careers ended almost as quickly as they began. In the midst of our thrills, which lasted quite some time, there was a knock on the door. We didn't hear it, of course, as our noses were furrowed deep in the phone book. My aunt came midway down the stairs to quiet us down.
"Shhhh! Someone is at the door and you're making too much noise!"
Someone was at the door? Live entertainment was much more exciting than dialing-up trouble so we followed her up the stairs to see who it might be. I looked up and the rest unfolded in slow motion. A hulky police officer stood in the doorway. His shirt was crispy blue; his shoes big and shiny. He was talking to my parents, my aunt walked up beside my uncle who stood next to my dad. We kids froze by the kitchen door.
Eyes bulging, I can remember thinking: Someone must have recognized our voices! What's going to happen to us? Will the police talk to us, or will it be our parents? Doesn't matter. Either way, we're dead. I looked over at my sister and cousins to see what they might be thinking. They were lifeless. I quaked in my slippers and prepared for the worst.
Then he was gone. My mother closed the door behind him. Our parents exchanged a few words. Someone had to go outside. My dad took off his slippers and opened the closet door for his shoes. And we, the four statues, awaited our fate. "Zambo is barking too much," said my mom. "Someone called the police. Go downstairs and don't make too much noise! It could be upsetting the dog and we don't want any more complaints."
Don't worry, Ma. You don't have to tell us to be quiet. Seeing a police officer at our door took care of that.
This summer, I'll be listening for noise levels. If they're too low, there may be trouble brewing, and if they're too high...it may be pretty much the same thing. These last two weeks of school, I'm taking a break from elaborate cooking. The end of the year crunch means schedules conflict more than usual for us. Although I rarely buy them, only cold cuts can save me now. Lots of veggies, a little summer-squash dip and formaggio di Bufala (we finally tried it and is it ever good). Some whole-wheat or multigrain bread and olives and it's dinner.
I keep a platter of fruit kabobs in the fridge so there is a healthy-and-easy snack for later in the evening. ~ I'm looking forward to a slower-paced summer and the different cooking this season brings. How about you? How are you changing your cooking routine now that summer is here?