A Spoonful of Cheril

You just turned the page of this new exciting program and saw a photo of a crazy looking woman with a mop of curly blondish hair, waving a wooden spoon and staring at you. With utter amazement, you think “who is this woman and what in the world is SHE doing?”

Is she a chef? Is she a comedienne? Is she making fun of food? Or is she just a sexy food wearing apron DIVA? A Gina De Laurentis look a- like? What??? WHAT IS GOIN’ ON? That’s a great question and I will try to answer it in my new food column, “A SPOONFUL OF CHERIL.”

I’m no Mario Batali, but I do love food! I love everything about it, the smell, the taste, the textures, talking about it, staring at it and charging it on my credit card. Food is my paisan; the calories bolted to my belly keep me warm while locked up in my house depressed on a cold rainy day eating food that expired centuries ago.

Of course food is my life, I’m Italian! I was raised on the outskirts of Boston in a loud, hungry Italian family and I have the gravy stains to prove it. A typical childhood day was spent hanging out at my mother’s kitchen table watching my Irish/Italian Mother and my hot tempered Italian Father yell and scream as we all shoved pasta in our mouths. (Think of the John Travolta family from Saturday Night Fever.)

Food was and is our therapy, happiness, joy, our drug of choice, and the best aphrodisiac, which thankfully kept us from killing each other! WE LIVED FOR FOOD, knowing food would always make things better… Even if Ma didn’t make enough sauce to cover the pasta or my father was too cheap to buy breasts so we had dark meat thighs… Real life and great taste are not always TOP CHEF where EVERY TASTE HAS TO MESH AND EVERY BITE NEEDS TO BE PERFECT! Please! Who can live like that? And seriously, who has the money to buy all those fancy schmancy gadgets anyway? I have no idea what half the things they use are… Do you? What happened to good old fashion wooden spoons and loving callus hands from hours of kneading dough?

To me FOOD IS FOOD! It’s like a train, inevitable the next one is coming… It could be long and drawn out or short and sweet! I don’t take my food that serious, nor should you; Take it with laughter, spending time with people you love or people you love to hate and with lots of vino. It’s not a meant to be “you’re not good enough to taste my food” prissy… As my mother would say in her thick Rhode Island accent, “IT’S JUST FOOD FOR CRIPES SAKE!”

This column will be about combining food with humor, where you can ask me any dumb question you want and I will share my culinary life with you and hopefully answer all your questions along with some tips, even if I’m tipsy. We will get to know each other through smell, taste and humor… Which could go either way, kind of like me… And you will become my piasan, my loyal reader, my extra poundage, that I will try my best to work off, yet settle with your comfort at the end of the day.

Did you know the Italian culture Christmas Eve is THE BIGGEST HOLIDAY of all time? At least for Italians… It’s the Italian Super Bowl for us. We start planning for it months in advance and talk about how great it tasted years later. So, to honor my Italian heritage I’d like to introduce to you the beautiful ANTIPASTO, the grand dam of Italian salads. It’s the culinary Godfather in our food chain. If you go into an Italian Restaurant and there isn’t an Antipasto on the menu, WALK OUT! They are NOT a legit Italian Restaurant, trust me! You will thank me someday!

Millions of people have waited for THE ANTIPASTO since the beginning of time. If you have ever spent ANY Holiday with a true Italian, we ALL wait for the arrival of THE ANTIPASTO! We are constantly looking around for it at the dinner table and rubber necking while slurping our soup wondering when it will arrive. It is the welcoming food mat of our culture. It’s a peace maker and a great way to break bread. I believe if these arrogant dictators sat down for an Antipasto and a few laughs, they would think twice about doing crazy stuff. Maybe Dennis Rodman needs to bring a platter of Antipasto with him on his next trip to visit that friggin’ nut? Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

This yummy dish is served family style on a bigger than life Italian platter with any kind of dunking Italian bread on the side. (I suggest anything with garlic.) It’s very glamorous and elegant but has a casual feel to it.

Loving the entertainment business as much as I do, this somewhat reminds me of a red carpet event. It truly unites people, makes them more than willing to put on a fake smile and act as if they like each other just to get a taste. We lose ourselves in the atmosphere of the garlic aroma, a glass of vino and the sound of Sinatra in the background as we pass around the welcome mat of Antipasto. After sprinkling it with oil and vinegar and a bunch of Parmesan cheese and we start twerking in our seats… gently we take our first bite and think to ourselves… Miley Cyrus has nuthin’ over this! Mangia!

I can’t wait to explore our passion for food and a good belly laugh with all of you…

Cheril Vendetti is a stand-up comedienne and cookbook author.

Antipasto recipe is an excerpt from her cookbook novella “MISTRESS OF THE MOB CUISINE.”

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