Read an Excerpt
Like most people, the two of us hold chicken soup and its virtues in high regard. It is the ultimate feel-better food. Just a whiff of its warm fragrance can lift your spirits, especially when you’re huddled under the covers in the grip of a miserable cold.
But since we women rarely have the luxury of taking a sick day, we’d like to call your attention to a few of the splendiferous and supreme attributes of our own favorite comfort food: spaghetti. Where chicken soup tends to be held in reserve for a healing moment, we believe the glories of spaghetti are meant to be enjoyed regularly. Let’s consider for a moment the marvelous characteristics of this staple of life.
In Praise of Pasta
Spaghetti is satisfying. One box goes a long way. A quarter pound of spaghetti piles much higher than a quarter pound of hamburger.
Spaghetti is nourishing. It’s full of nutritious things like semolina, durum wheat, niacin, and iron. If you can’t start your day with a bowl of power cereal, you can certainly end it with a bowl of power spaghetti.
Spaghetti is fun. Have you ever watched a baby during his or her first encounter with spaghetti? It’s hard to picture a more delightful scene. Even for us adults, just the thought of swirling and slurping the unruly strands with some attempt at decorum brings a grin. We challenge you to feel sad while puckering up to suck in a forkful of linguini.
Spaghetti is celebratory. When we Italians dish spaghetti, or any of the broad array of other pasta shapes, from a massive ceramic serving bowl onto the plate of a guest, that is our way of offering our best. We’re saying, “Welcome. Sit, eat, be satisfied. We’re glad you’re here.”
Spaghetti is intrinsically abundant. It actually grows as it rolls around in the big pot of boiling water. You can eat half of what’s in your bowl, yet it still looks just as full as when you started. Sadly, this leads to our next point.
Or Maybe Not
Truth be told, there are a few downsides to spaghetti. Overindulging places us smack in the battle of the bulge. In addition, spaghetti can be messy, sticky, and uncontrollable. And isn’t that just like life?
Statistics overwhelmingly resound with the sad and irrefutable fact that many of us feel as if we’re tangled up in the slippery strands of life. We have not all found safety, trust, nourishment, and love around our dinner tables, in our homes, or with the people who are supposed to care about us. And some days the only abundance we experience is the weight on our shoulders, the heaviness in our hearts, the loneliness in our daily routines, and the constant pressure to be all things to all people.
Survey today’s typical American woman and you’ll not need to dig deep to find that she struggles with abundant guilt, frustration, isolation, fatigue, and yes, anger. Where did it all come from? And where can we find something better, something that fills our souls while helping us lose the unnecessary weight of discontent?
In the gospel of John, Jesus declared that one of His reasons for coming to earth was to give people life. More specifically, He came so that we might have life “abundantly” (10:10, NASB). Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, conveys Jesus’s intent with these words: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” Real life. More life. Better life. Abundant life. Eternal life. Who wouldn’t say yes to an offer like that? Where do we sign up? Are there loopholes? What’s hidden in the fine print? Isn’t this too good to be true?
The two of us are here to say that we did sign up and that God has certainly kept His end of the agreement. He has made abundant life available and attainable; our part of the equation is simply to receive what God wants to give.
If you’re a bit cynical, wondering if God truly cares about whether or not you have an abundant life, you are not alone. In our travels we meet so many people from all kinds of backgrounds, and we are always excited to find those who truly hunger and thirst after the things of God. But most of the women we encounter seem disillusioned and defeated by life. Many are convinced that God plays favorites or looks the other way when He sees their suffering. Others have placed God in a less-than-attractive box. They view God as too big, too small, too invasive,
or too irrelevant. What little faith they cling to has been compartmentalized, politicized, or marginalized.
Oh, do we understand this. We both grew up in families that demonstrated an awareness of the existence of God, but not an experience of God. Religion came up from time to time—ours was right and everyone else’s was wrong—but the topic of knowing God intimately was a big no-no within our immediate and extended families. Heads would shake, eyes would roll, and we were told not to speak of such things because, “It’s personal.” Yet we were convinced there had to be more to God than à la carte rules and rituals. We both determined to find the
“more,” wherever our search might lead.
Eventually, it led to each of us as young women asking Jesus to reside in our hearts and to be our constant companion. In these past several decades, as we’ve enjoyed a romance of sorts with the living God, we have been amazed, thrilled, comforted, and quieted by His goodness and love.
Through the years, however, we occasionally have found ourselves, like so many women we meet, snatching crumbs from the table of God instead of fully participating in the feast that He has prepared and to which He warmly invites each of us. That feast is abundant faith, abundant hope, and abundant love—the essential ingredients of a healthy spiritual and emotional life. The feast is prepared, but we have to make time to enjoy it.
One of our favorite verses in the Scriptures is “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). So we invite you to taste of God’s goodness as you join the feast, something we Italians know just a bit about.
Come Join Our Table
The two of us were born in Brooklyn, and although we didn’t meet until adulthood, our childhood memories reflect our shared heritage. For the families in which we grew up, food was far more than a meal. It was an occasion, a feast, a love affair. And if typical weeknight dinners were important, and they were, then Sunday afternoon dinners with our extended families were sacred. Everyone came ready to eat: parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. No one ever considered skipping out.
An old Italian proverb—Al tavolo, non sei vecchio—says, “At the table, we don’t grow old.” Early in life we each learned a great deal about “the table.” At the table, arguments started and ended, marriages were blessed, babies were nibbled on, the departed were cried over, and the living were teased. At the table, you could always find a fresh pot of coffee along with second or third helpings of food, advice, hugs, and sloppy kisses. At the table, all was well with the world.
We have found that every time one of us speaks of the Brooklyn roots and Italian heritage we proudly share, it brings smiles to faces and arouses curiosity. In the pages to follow you’ll learn more about us, but for now let’s get the usual questions out of the way:
Are all Italians in the Mafia? No, and the inference is unkind, thank you. Watch your back.
Do you really have an uncle Vito and a cousin Vinny? Vito, Vinny, Tony, Dominick, Frank, Johnny, Sal, Paulie, Freddie, Al. Yep, we have ’em all.
Was pasta a daily staple in your home? No, we had steak once a week, chicken twice a week, and pizza on Friday nights.
When did you have your first taste of wine? In church.
Is it true that you ate lasagna before turkey on Thanksgiving? Of course. That’s why we were thankful.
Did your Sunday afternoon dinners really last four hours? No, sometimes it was five. Italians probably coined the expression “soup to nuts.”
Why do Italians only give cash at weddings? The goal is to collect enough for a down payment on a house. The happy couple needs a house to store the truckload of presents they received at the bridal shower.
Why are Italians always arguing? They’re not arguing; they’re just having loud discussions.
If you have seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ve seen our families, just with a different accent. Somehow that movie connected with the ethnicity in all of us. Although Nia Vardalos painstakingly and brilliantly portrayed the stereotypical Greco-American family, our southern friends said it was all about their relatives, while our Jewish friends claimed it was about theirs. For Italian Americans, watching the film was like looking into a huge boot-shaped mirror. Of course, our version would need several minor changes, such as replacing the baklava with cannolis!
As hilarious as that movie was, it also touched poignantly on universal topics that provoke sadness and pain. Who among us doesn’t struggle at times with issues of self-esteem and beauty, frustrated dreams, or the craziness of family? We believe that’s why the movie was hugely popular: it revealed who we are or, at the least, who we had hoped to be.
Similarly, in the pages that follow we will share many glimpses into our lives as we look together at what it means to feast on faith, hope, and love. Some of the stories we tell are joyful, and others are quite painful. We’ll look at a few moments we’re proud of and others we would really rather forget. No matter what, we will share with honesty because we believe that’s how we all grow together.
And how about you and your life? Where do you fit into a book about spaghetti and abundance and sticky messes? We’re so glad you asked! Whether you are new to the Christian faith or a longtime believer, if you’re feeling worn out by life and long to be reenergized and renewed, we invite you to bring a friend, grab a chair, and come to the table. Here you will find understanding, companionship, and abundance to more than satisfy your soul.
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
—MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.