Esther DiVirgilio

Above. That’s Bom (my grandma). Short for Bommer. The story goes, the oldest cousin, Joe couldn’t say “Grandma” but could say “Bommer,” and so it stuck. My father’s family, the Italians, lived in Chicago. We lived in Minnesota. I’d visit almost every summer. I spent most of my time with my Aunt Rosemary, but sometimes when I wanted to get away from my cousin who didn’t seem to like me, I called Bom.

She lived in a trailer home. She’d pick me up. Take me to her home. And she’d cook. I’d watch TV. Eat the best pizza I ever had. Scattered memories. Sometimes, she’d come to my Aunt Rosemary’s house, and clean while her daughter was at work. Bom moved like a woman on a mission. She wasn’t more than 5 feet tall. She’d cruise from room to room and us cousins would follow behind her, putting our one hand behind our butts like she did- making fun of her. She didn’t think it was funny. She wanted us to clean. More scattered memories.

I was much closer to my mom’s mom, Lillian. She lived in Minnesota and she was my pal. I have longer streams of memories with her. But Bom- flickers of her presence, in and out of my life. Mostly out. I wish she would have been a steady stream.

Tonight (February 25, 2011) just a few days after launching this site, Angry Spaghetti I was in my kitchen cutting green peppers. The smell reminded me of Bom. Actually the smell was Bom. And I was in her kitchen. Not the one I spent the most time in, but another one. One I hadn’t thought of in years, if ever. She was in the kitchen, apron on, standing over the sink. Food on the stove. I was with my dad in the livingroom. Peppers must have been cooking. Back in my kitchen, tears fell.

I wish I could find the words to explain the depth of purpose I feel at this time in my life. Angry Spaghetti is more than just another food blog. This may only be where this purpose begins. I feel called from a core place inside of me, to gather her recipes. To cook in my kitchen. To make her a stream of light in my life. And further…

I’ve been told, Bom was an angry woman. At the age of 15, her mother died and she had to take care of her siblings and the household. I guess, she was a fast runner. Even had a chance of trying out for the Olympics, but that life got put aside. Soon, she would be tending to her own family of four children and one husband, who died of complications from diabetes. A grandpa I never met.

Many years ago, I was at a workshop. The instructor said to me I had a grandmother near me. I immediately assumed it was Lillian. I know now, it is Bom. The term Angry Spaghetti was used to explain a time I yelled at someone. My husband now says, “Uh-oh, watch out for the Angry Spaghetti,” to warn of the Italian temper that is about to ignite. It’s kind of funny. But now, I know this term goes deeper. My grandma is near me, and through me I am healing the anger. I am excavating seen and unseen dreams so I can live them. And, I am cutting green peppers, letting my sauce simmer and cooking for my family, as she did for hers.

My father still talks of those meals. He will not eat fast food. In his home, it was never an option. Food has changed a lot since the time of my grandmothers. The pastas and breads, I imagine were more wholesome. Processed and packaged foods were rare. Now, to find fresh and real food is rare. To take the old traditions and recipes and modify them to nourish my family in these changing times, is a new tradition I hope to pass on to my daughters.

La mia famiglia

As the green peppers sautéed, my 10-year old Lilli, said, “Smells good, Mom.”
It’s happening.

I dedicate this blog, my cooking, my homemaking, and everything else, which comes from this SPACE to my grandmother, Esther Di Virgilio a.k.a. Bommer, and to my children, Alyssa & Lilli.  

I love you.

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