Lasagna Fest 2008

I come from a family of professional cooks and eaters. Consider this:

1. My dad owned a restaurant from the time I was born until I graduated from high school. And he bought the restaurant from his father, who owned several diners in northeastern Pennsylvania, including one of those shiny chrome ones that are delivered on big trucks and are populated by waitresses who say things like, “My dog’s will be barkin’ tonight.”

2. My mom is a kickass cook who routinely won cooking contests when I was a little girl. She’s from a big Italian family (the youngest of 9 kids), and our traditional Christmas Eve feast included antipasto; homemade provolone-cheese stuffed dough balls (deep fried… mmmm!); and linguine with clam sauce.

3. We ate dinner together as a family almost every night until I went away to college. That’s a lot of chopping and stirring and eating together. Making food is in my DNA.

Fast forward to me, as a grownup. Dave is allergic to fish and repelled by seafood (no linguine with clam sauce), but I can’t let go of the idea that Christmas Eve must revolve around family and friends gathered in a kitchen, with way too much Italian food. We had to come up with a new menu for Christmas Eve, and that’s how we chose on lasagna. It’s Italian. It’s delicious. It’s homey. And it became our very own tradition.

Christmas Eve is my favorite part of the holiday. House bursting with too many people and maybe not enough chairs, presents still under the tree and all possibility, leaving cookies out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer…

Last year, because he’s Peter, my pal Peter Elliott turned our Christmas Eve Lasagna Fest into a Lasagna-Off and started a lasagna-baking rivalry. I play along ’cause I like Peter. I gotta admit, his lasagna was pretty damn good.

And he gave me a pretty kickass Christmas present:

So right now, I’m enjoying a cup of coffee Dave brought me from Jo’s, getting ready to start organizing my serving dishes, and daydreaming about my first bite of hot, cheesy lasagna, surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world.

Happy, happy! Merry, merry!

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