My brother Bernie called me last night. He said he was making Limoncello. I love that he and my brother Bob still do that kind of thing. It’s proof they haven’t lost their Italian-ness. The label with my dad’s photo on it is one of Bob’s wine labels.
Bernie was peeling lemons as we talked, and I wanted to watch, so we Face-timed, and it was almost as good as being there. I watched his big hands peeling the lemons and it was like sitting in the kitchen with both of my parents at once. My dad’s strong bricklayer hands combined with my mom always making something in the kitchen.
He asked me if I remembered that today was my dad’s birthday, and, of course, I did. My dad would have been 102 today. We always used to say Cent’anni when we toasted, hoping he would make 100 years…but, sadly he did not. But, I’ll toast to 102 (Centodue) today in his honor.
I’ll bet Bernie was making Limoncello to honor dad, because my dad loved lemony things. Bernie and I got talking about lemons and Limoncello and recipes (we cannot talk without recipes coming up) and how Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Cake, Lemon Squares, Lemon Ricotta Cookies, and all things lemon were my dad’s favorites. Then we veered toward Chicken Piccata…and that’s when I realized I was going to have to share some lemony recipes and a story of torture you may not have heard yet.
I was an expert at tormenting my dad when I was a child. He loved lemony things but couldn’t eat an actual lemon. If you asked him to, his face would pucker up in such a sour expression. I used enjoy torturing him by fishing lemons out of the iced tea and eating them in front of him just to get him to pucker up. He always did it, as if on cue and I would laugh hysterically.
Children are evil that way.
I miss that sweet man every day, and even though our conversations toward the end were mostly repetition, there was something reassuring about hearing him say the same things he said time and again like, “Don’t worry, we’ll get through it,” or “Stay tough,” or “Keep your nose to the grindstone, you can do it.”
My dad was the taskmaster. When there was work to be done, you did it until it was finished. Period. Not even a discussion.
Mom was fun personified, which is why I am such a mess. Half the time I’m disciplined and half the time I just want to have fun. This does not make for a simple career path. But it’s good for blog writing, which I consider 99 percent fun.
So, Happy Birthday Dad. You are always with me in my thoughts, actions, and DNA. You’ve made me at least half of what I am today and I am so grateful for you. You are the reason anything ever gets accomplished in my life. I love you forever.
Mom, I love you forever too, but for very different reasons.
To honor Dad, here is Bernie’s Limoncello Recipe – (if you make it – just remember one ounce will knock you out like a prizefighter). Also a link to my Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares Recipe, a link to my Lemon Ricotta Cookies Recipe, and a link to a Williams Sonoma Chicken Piccata Recipe, which is absolutely delicious! I used it when I catered a wedding last January and it was a huge hit.
Peel only the yellow off 14 lemons
Place the peels in a large glass container
Add 2 liters of grain alcohol
Add two cinnamon sticks (these are optional)
Let the mixture sit for 30 days.
Then strain it into a clear container and add 2 liters of distilled water and sugar to taste. put a cork in it and put it in the freezer before serving it.