Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Pawlak Family Christmas

The rain came pouring down as we headed out on the 27th to younger brother Bob's house in Huntington Bay, Long Island, to celebrate Christmas en famile, with his wife/supermom Claire, and neices Laura, Elizabeth and Abigail; my sis Renee, her hubby John and nephew Ryan and neice Lisa. My mom had been there from the 23rd, celebrating Xmas Eve with Bob's in-laws and extended family for an elaborate dinner, as is Claire's family's tradition. For OUR Christmas dinner, Mom made her justifiably famous gnocchis, along with big pots of meat-filled tomato sauce (meatballs, sausage, pork chops and bracciole, handmade by brother Bob). Mom's gnocchis have a cult following in our extended family; unlike the belly bombs you encounter in many Italian restaurants, hers are impossibly light, made according to the recipe and technique of her mother, Maria, who hailed from Alberobello, a coastal town in the Puglia region of Italy.
Sis-in-law Claire made crabcakes and other snacks to munch on before dinner, Bob opened several bottles of cabernet (he poured a nice glass of Caymus for me), Claire came out with a zippy, crisp, chopped greens salad, and everyone settled down for a great repast. And yes, it IS funny when the twins call them "nookies". And Mom's gnocchis were as good as ever, some got a little overcooked, probably due to the different kitchen logistics Mom had to deal with, but, all in all, gnocchis are the anchor dish of our family, helping to keep the link to our nonna's cooking traditions alive.

But Ben protested during most of the dinner: "I don't like nookies, " he said, as he scooped up dumpling after dumpling. Faker.

We brought dessert, pies from Terhune Orchards here in Lawrenceville, possibly the finest pies made on earth: pecan, pumpkin and an apple-cranberry crisp were our contributions to the dinner.

But first it was time for presents, and all sorts of chaos ensued in Bob's cozy living room. Five kids, two young adults and 7 adults tearing at wrapping paper, it sure wasn't pretty. But the kids got positively spoiled b y their grandma and aunts, and I noticed that both Laura and Elizabeth were quickly riveted by the "Dangerous Books for Girls" that we got them. I love giving kids books for Christmas., and I guess I will always stubbornly do so.

Dessert was good, all the kids got into their respective PJs, and Bob's kids trundled up to bed, I loaded the car and then the kids into the SUV, and off we were into the dark rainy night for the long drive back home.

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