The kitchen was large and square and sunny even on cold winter days. The sheer white curtains were more form than function. The room was flanked south and east by large noisy, knocking, hissing radiators (pronounce raah-diator in Brooklynese), their sturdy silver-painted presence a comfort on cold mornings.
A large, aluminum pressure cooker, the bearer of many dents from years of service merengued merrily on the worn white stovetop, its little valve tapping to the beat of both the steaming pot and the clanking of the steam radiators.
An old woman with steely blue/grey hair and wire-rimmed glasses stood at the stove, stirring another pot, also large, but cast iron and red and full of spaghetti sauce. She seasoned and sampled.
But it was the tapping pressure cooker the children were watching. They were all sitting at the big round kitchen table with the mis-matched chairs, swinging and kicking with anticipating feet too short to reach the floor. Ten cousins in all, each with an empty bowl and a cloth napkin by their place. The table was otherwise empty save for an enormous empty mixing bowl placed exactly in the center of the table, just slightly out of arm’s reach.
They laughed and poked at each other, trying to out-do knock knock jokes and TV show impressions, always keeping an eye on the woman in the apron at the stove. “Nani,” one girl asked, blocking a tickling hand to her left. “We’re HUNGRY!!” All nodded vigorously. “She’s-a ready now, my pupidus,” smiled their grandmother as she scooped up their bowls and took them to the stove, reaching into the pot with long tongs to pull out steaming treasure. With a flourish, she presented each child with their very own stuffed artichoke.
On went napkins. Talking ceased. Only the sound of smacking lips and the occasional giggle were heard when one of the littler children missed the mixing bowl when tossing in a well-chewed leaf.