Whenever guests came for dinner, they would hear my mother say, “Keep your fork.” For Italians that always meant that the meal was far from over and something else good was coming. For those not familiar with dining like the Italians, the experience became an envious adventure into the ritual of food and its connecting power to all those around the table.
Nonna Galasso—my grandmother—always started dinner with platters of antipasti whenever we had company for Sunday dinner. Her antipasti consisted of pickled vegetables, or giardiniera, from the jars that were put up the year before. Cauliflower, mushrooms, beans, zucchini, and sweet bell peppers were favorites.
A primo piatto (first course), which followed antipasto, was usually a soup, pasta, or rice dish, followed by a secondo (second course) consisting of meat, fish, or poultry. A salad course was served last, and the meal ended with coffee and fresh fruit.
An Italian meal is never rushed. That would be rude and unthinkable. An hour or more could go by just sitting at the table enjoying antipasto; it allowed people to relax, savor the food, and talk about the events of their day. Sadly, the tradition is fading.
Eating habits in Italy may be changing, but I believe in the importance of preserving traditions so “keep your fork” for all the good foods and flavors that come after antipasti!
For tasty Italian family recipes from Mary Ann Esposito, including sea scallop carpaccio and pistachio farfelle, pick up the March/April 2014 issue of The Saturday Evening Post on newsstands, or purchase the digital edition for your iPad, Nook, or Android tablet: