In a family where Italian roots run deep, my mother’s non-Italian culinary heritage has had to fight for a place on the table. To be sure, a great many of her dishes are Sunday dinner regulars. Her spaghetti salad is a summer barbecue staple; though, I imagine it must have been anathema to the in-laws back in the day. (“Johnny, your wife with the spaghetti and the mayonnaise — what’s goin’ on here?”)
And while many of these recipes are favorites of my siblings and mine, they lag behind the Italian dishes in the pantheon of family food traditions.
Thanksgiving has the creatively named Italian peas. Christmas has Spaghetti Olio and baccalà. Easter has its eponymous pie. (It’s worth noting here that my mother has been instrumental in perfecting each one of these dishes; without her they wouldn’t be the tradition that they are today.)
But one food tradition form my mother’s side that has endured is her Halloween popcorn balls — salty-sweet spheres of popcorn and molasses that, depending on freshness, are either tasty treats of deadly weapons.