La tavola de cucina means the kitchen table in Italian.  La tavola is our family tradition.  I grew up in a family of four girls.  My parents both were both full time teachers on top of us collectively working on our ranch.  Whether it was 6:45am, half asleep shoveling tomatoes and eggs in our mouths, before school, or 8:00pm after everyone’s day was coming to an end, we always sat down to eat together.  The holidays bring a beautiful expansion of this tradition, which runs through all of my family on both sides.  Each holiday brings together a minimum of 20 relatives, spanning 4 generations, multiple families, plus in-laws, college friends, and extended family and friends, which have become staples in our lives over the years.
La tavola is a rustic, 50+ year old, beat up table in a funky oval shape.  It was in my father’s house when he was growing up, and is still in my grandmother’s (Noni) kitchen.  La tavola is always covered with a funky tablecloth, salt and pepper shakers (that we never use), a napkin holder, and fake flowers.  It’s funny that her mini-fake flowers bring me such comfort.  I still take a quick smell just in case she converted to real.
In our family, la tavola is not the largest table in anyone’s house.  However, it is where we all tend to sit, squeeze, and spend the majority of our time together.  Just prior to the meal, as we gather to say grace, we always hold hands and form one massive circle around la tavola, even though we will move into the dining room or outside.  Why?  Because it is a celebration of the process, the work that went into the celebration, and it keeps all of us embedded in the joy that is food and family.
It’s a simple thing.  It’s a table.  But la tavola is more than a big piece of wood with a claw bottom.  It is a place of gathering to laugh, to cry, to comfort and to have difficult conversations.  It holds meals, and games, and has sustained many emotional events.  This holiday season, as you gather with family and friends, look around you and soak in the simple things that bring you comfort and joy, whatever they may be.
Mangiare. Rida. Vive. (Eat. Laugh. Live)
My mama loves to make all types of cookies and breads during the holidays.  There are a few that I’m allowed to share.  Follow this link to Mama Nina’s Zucchini Bread