First: July 8, 2013
Last: July 8, 2013
I grew up in an Italian family from New York. My grandfather, Carlos, claimed to be the King of Italy’s personal tailor. I’m still checking on whether or not there was a king of Italy in the late 1800’s as my grandfather claimed.
All the men in my family cooked. Holidays and special occasions—Fridays before poker—found all my eight uncles in the kitchen, each making their own specialty. My aunts were ushered out to discuss “girl things”—which usually meant men things.
The male children, me and my many cousins, each had a favorite uncle, and we would be the souse chefs; chopping, dicing, and pretending we were an integral part of the process. My specialty was tomatoes, and, since we were Sicilians, that was a pretty important part. My Cousin Gary’s specialty was sausage. Even though I'd never admit it, Gary actually had the better specialty--more macho. Very important if you’re Sicilian.
My favorite uncle was Eduardo--Eddy. He was the oldest of my mother’s eight siblings, and had been married eight times—more if you listened to my mother. Every holiday, there would be a new Mrs. Eddy. Now that I look back on it, I don't think all of them really were wives, but introducing each new platinum blond as Eddy's new wife gave my mother comfort and soothed her Catholic soul.
Uncle Eddy was—and still is—my hero.
Uncle Eddy’s specialty was lasagna, and not just your ordinary lasagna. Uncle Eddy's lasagnas were aromatic, pungent, gamey, woodsy, and memorable. They were true to his Sicilian heritage: and to my grandfather’s legacy as personal tailor to the King of Italy.
My favorite was his duck and sausage lasagna. It was a true reflection of Uncle Eddy's essence and bore the thread of his heritage throughout the generations. Whether or not it’s Sicilian as Uncle Eddy and my grandfather claimed, or from Vladivostok as Eddy’s Russian farm wife, Mania (number 5) insisted, we will never know.
What we do know is that it transcends Italian cooking and is suitable for major Catholic holidays, Friday poker nights, and family Sundays where everyone eats outside.
I claim some ownership for the dish—the tomato part—and humbly offer it to you with the hopes that you will savor the experience of cooking with Uncle Eddy, the rest of my eight uncles, and my esteemed grandfather, the King of Italy's personal tailor.