Nonna’s Kitchen Table: Mangia! I Love-a You!


The table, for me is the trunk of the family tree.

In her  post “The Imperfect Table”, Lisa Richardson challenged us to “reclaim the table.”

I was intrigued by that statement. It was an opportunity to investigate the perception I have of my own scruffy dinner table situation.

First, I thought of the meaningful and diverse experiences I’ve had while seated around a table with others. The common thread woven through so many very different experiences was the uplifted and complete feeling from simply showing up, sitting together and sharing a meal.

The kitchen table – an ordinary yet omnipresent piece of furniture, in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes across cultures and this planet – for gathering and eating the food that has been graciously provided by mother earth herself.

Now that I have a family of my own, I look back with deep appreciation for the commitment my family had for gathering together every evening to share space, food and conversation.

When I visualize myself as a kid with my family, we are usually sitting around a table. My family roots are European – Italian and Eastern European.  My siblings, cousins and I were all born in Canada, but we’ve always been enveloped into the dining culture of Italy.

One table shines above all others for its weighty contribution in shaping my sense of what it means to gather in the spirit of food, family and togetherness – Nonna’s kitchen table.

“Nonna” is the Italian word for Grandmother.

Nonna Selfie

My Nonna’s table represents all that is good and pure about sharing space with the people in your life who spark joy and happiness.

Nonna’s table, and kitchen, remain a timeless constant in my life of change.

Physically, it is a vintage enthusiast’s wonderland.

For my psyche, it is a meditative place of calm and serenity.

The décor is firmly lodged in the disco era and has been since I was a kid… perfectly preserved and immaculately cared for. Four swivelling vinyl bucket chairs sit around the glazed marble-look tabletop with lace cloth, atop the vibrant 1970’s linoleum. Mandatory gold framed painting of fruit and wine looks down from the wall.

Nonna's Kitchen

This table holds the imprint of four generations of Di Valentino’s gathering, breaking bread and eating pasta, laughing, crying, supporting, loving and holding space for each other. This table has facilitated a rise above language barriers – the offer and acceptance of food and “caffè” was the only phrase required to communicate the boundless love between grandchild and Nonna.

I bring this priceless wisdom, gleaned from forty years of eating at my Nonna’s kitchen table, into my life and my child-raising. Whatever may have happened during the day is put on the back burner. What is brought to the table is food, love and eye contact.

Sometimes that love has peeled and chopped, sautéed and baked for hours. Other times that love has ripped into a box of bunny shaped pasta and tossed it into a pot.

Either way, the expression of love at the kitchen table is tangible and I feel deeply that this is one of the greatest gifts that I can offer.