LASAGNA

Lasagna is a special occasion dish: Easter, Christmas, maybe a big birthday. All of the hours of preparation and assembly are done step-by-step with a sense of duty, tradition, and love. An obligation willingly accepted. It is understood that no matter what is happening – good or bad – a lasagna will always make it better, and the family gathered around the table to share in the deliciousness was the best thing of all.

This I learned from my in-laws.

Growing up, we didn’t eat lasagna, my Mom didn’t know how to make it until I’d married and my in-laws taught her. Our family’s go-to for special occasions was a ham… but most of our holidays were, well, not very special. My father’s anxiety and frustration increased as the hours ticked by, and by dinnertime everyone was wound-up so tight that nobody was really hungry.
My Mom may have made a perfectly delicious meal, but as good as it was, there was very little room for fun or conversation at the dinner table.

I met my future husband when I was just sixteen. My first invitation to dinner at his home was a revelation. They were a three-generation family under one roof, only the second I’d ever met, and everyone was working together, music was playing – probably opera – and when we sat to eat, there was lots of talking around the crowded dinner table… and a lasagna. One mouthful and I felt I had gone to Heaven!

Although my marriage didn’t last because we were too young, we always stayed friends. Or friendly, depending on the year. Lucky for me, my relationship with my in-laws DID last, for more than 40 years. When I think of Christmas dinners, it’s always theirs that comes to mind. Theirs that was the exemplar. From my father-in-law’s delicious French onion soup, to my MIL Dot’s multi-course extravaganza, and finally to her mom, Gram’s pleasure in asking, “Whatsa matter, isn’t it good?” when compliments weren’t immediately forthcoming because our mouths were full of her delicious lasagna.

I am sad that those days are only memories now, and happy that I got to be part of such a family.

This year I am going to make a lasagna for Christmas Eve. I haven’t made one in at least 7 years, since I had to quit eating wheat products. When I learned that Barilla makes good no-boil lasagna noodles that hold their shape, I knew it was time. I have had enough experience with gluten-free cooking that I believe I can make this work.

And yet, I’m a little nervous, doubting myself. For some reason, I feel the weight of all of those delicious memories bearing down on me. Will I get it right? Here’s where the rubber meets the road: all of my years of absorbing their experience and wisdom added to my years of cooking, plus the very best ingredients I can find, will, of course, add up to a wonderful lasagna. My version of lasagna.

What do I have to be nervous about?

I will serve it proudly to my Sweetie, my son, and his Dad – we are all sharing a meal this year, and even if it’s not like the old ways, they will all love it.

Here’s hoping that everything you cook turns out perfectly, and fills both bellies and hearts. And here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and love-filled New Year!

Gratefully,
XO Donna


Well Laid

Oh. My. Goodness.  Wherever did you go with that headline? I am talking about setting a table to sit down and dine.

Yes, dine! You know: forks, knives, plates and napkins on a table. As opposed to eating out of the to-go container using plastic forks, or throwing the pizza box in the middle of the table with a roll of paper towels. Dine…rather than dig in, chow down, throw down, pig out, or slam something.

I’ve worked as a hair-stylist most of my adult life, and with one brief and beautiful exception at Zan Ray Salon, lunches were always quickly eaten on a break, while standing-up. When my stomach finally began to bother me, my doctor inquired, “How do you eat your meals?”  I told him. He advised me to always sit down when I eat. “It signals the body to relax,” he said. It also puts us in a frame of mind to appreciate our food.

Place Setting from homeinstyle.co.ilIf you look up “how to lay a table,” you will find the commonly accepted way looks something like this photo on the left.  Why would you bother?

  • Because life is short.
  • Because food is the fuel that nurtures you – if it doesn’t deserve a plate, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.
  • And because you deserve to eat in a nice setting! I have to add one more thing: don’t save the “Fine China” for special occasions. Who is more important than you? What is more important than the fact that you are alive today?

I arranged to interview my friend Karen Louise recently, (more on that in another blog) and she said she’d open a bottle of Cropped Luncheon with Karenwine for us. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and was greeted by this perfect table! We sat and talked, lingering for hours. I haven’t felt so relaxed in ages. And I felt tres chic and honored by her careful attention!  (I’d love to see how she does “formal,” and wonder if there’s room at her Christmas table?)

Next time you get ready to eat, take an extra minute to lay a place at your table. Make it as simple, or sexy as you like. Remind yourself, and the people you’re with, that you are precious! Pass the good food, and share the love!

XO Donna


A blank slate…

I hope this finds you well today.  Savoring the holidays, or recovering from them…if you savored them too well!                 (Drink lots of water, sparkling or otherwise. Add lemon or orange slices, mint leaves  or cucumber if you have any).

I waited all morning for inspiration to come. It hadn’t yet….but, rather than just sit and wait, I decided to do something useful. I ended up losing track of time as I gave myself a  pedicure, complete with a footbath with soothing epsom salts. Then a good pumicing, followed by a shaping, a primer and finally, Essie gold nail polish!

My muse hadn’t arrived yet, so I continued on with a manicure. Soaked my fingers in warm water, followed by massaging them with warm coconut oil. No polish, just follow that up with lots of sandalwood hand cream!

Back to the computer.  Ready and waiting, but I found myself alternately staring at the computer screen, and out the window at the sunshine. And at the garden.  And at a thermometer that reads only 39 degrees! How could it be so pretty AND so cold?  And how could I still NOT have anything to say?  Guest bath 9-15-08

So I pulled out all of the proverbial stops: I headed back to my bathroom where I  pulled my hair away from my face in a bandanna, washed my face with a Vitamin C cleanser, and get out one of my nutrient-infused face masques and carefully applied it. I headed to the sofa to settle down for a “long winter’s nap.” (I never manage to take a nap, no matter how tired I am!)

Much to my surprise, I did, indeed, doze off – and when I awoke 30 minutes later I felt refreshed, and my skin felt rehydrated!

Maybe I needn’t SAY anything at all today, but instead, “lead by example.”   I took care of myself… so that I could continue to take care of others.  And that’s a great way to stay sexy at any age!

XOXO Donna