JeanMarie Olivieri

Remembering Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s House

I remember the butter

sliced like cheese

laid on crusty Italian bread

eaten by crusty Italian men

served by fluttering Italian women in aprons.

On weeknights at home, we ate salad before dinner

so, I was surprised, years later, to learn

that salad is served last in Italy,

maybe in the tony spots in Rome.

But Sundays at my grandparent’s home we had antipasto!

Vegetables, meat and cheese lay on a bed of lettuce in wheel spokes.

Thin slices of salami rolled like a cigarillo.

Round discs of pepperoni.

Cubes of yellow and white cheese.

Delicious, salty wedges of hard sharp provolone.

Celery and pickled vegetables.

Homemade eggplant salad.

Big green olives with pimento and wrinkled black ones with pits.

My eyes as big and round as the platter.

Grandpa always cut the long loaves of bread

fresh from the bakery, with a serrated steak knife.

My uncles denting cold butter slices into the crusts.

There was always sauce on the stove.

Ravioli for the main course, sometimes manicotti,

but rarely the classic lasagna.

After dinner, the women cleared the table; the men called for coffee.

Grandma ruled the kitchen with a spoon and an apron.

Eventually sisters and sisters-in-law would scatter to safety.

Nuts, dried fruit, and sometimes cookies,

but always cake and coffee.

Then cards came out and Grandma took her apron off.

Grandpa staked me for the game. I could play if I didn’t fidget.

Eventually, time and attention ran out

and we swept out in a flurry of kissed cheeks and crumbs.

JeanMarie Olivier was born from second generation parents, descended from Italy on both sides of her DNA. Her mother is an only child and father was one of two; so, cousins were once-removed and the aunts and uncles who came to Sunday dinner were the first generation, and are, sadly, all gone now. A freelance editor and poet, JeanMarie Olivieri believes that poetry can change the world one reader, or listener, at a time.