MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Giada de Laurentiis is the author of EVERYDAY ITALIAN. She's been having a hard time buying a new table for her renovated kitchen and her deadline is Easter.
GIADA DE LAURENTIIS reporting:
My husband Todd and I have been remodeling our house and I'd already offered to host the family's Easter gathering, knowing that would give me a concrete deadline for finishing the work. I settled on the stove, the tiles, lighting and the countertops without much difficulty. When it came to choosing the most basic items in the kitchen, I was paralyzed. As I slowly navigated my way though the furniture store, I contemplated round, square, oval, rectangular, cherry, oak, even a glass table without enthusiasm, and then there were the chairs. None of them looked or felt right.
Why was choosing a simple dining room table so difficult when I had decided on convection versus induction, under or over-mounted sinks and hardwood versus terra cotta flooring without a moment's hesitation? I was ready to call it a day until I realized I wasn't hung up on the aesthetics. It was something more basic.
Choosing a kitchen table was an emotional process. For me, the kitchen signifies family. The table must be strong, it's legs sturdy. For my Easter gathering, it must be wide and long enough to accommodate my entire family, both immediate and extended. Subtle flaws in the wood, like knots or odd grooves, are okay because they contribute character, and what family doesn't have characters? But the table must be adaptable to growth, loss, age and even damage.
With this new focus, my eyes landed on a large, rectangular-shaped walnut table. As I rested my hands on the tabletop, I felt an emotional connection. Its size and many accompanying chairs sparked a memory from my childhood in Italy, when my family often gathered around an ample kitchen table to celebrate Easter and other holidays.
I saw members of my family seated in each of the chairs amidst the laughter and passing around of traditional Easter foods, like a rich, savory pizza rustica filled with salami, peppers, cheeses and a whole leg of lamb, seasoned with fennel seeds and rosemary. I saw the face of my mother and felt love and security. I know exactly where she will sit at my new table. I saw my sister, Elouisa, and made a mental note that my new table would need to accommodate her husband and her new baby. I saw my brother and best friend Dino and instantly felt sad, even lonely at the thought that Dino, who died two years ago of cancer, will never sit at my new table. I saw my precocious little brother Igor, who used to sit in a highchair, but has long since moved on to a grownup chair of his own. My grandfather Dino and my Aunt Rathie, both responsible, in large part, for my love of cooking, were always fixtures at the table.
Finally, I saw myself, tucked in a chair amongst the gregarious, loving group, feeling safe at my new place at our shared table. With the vivid images in my mind, my indecisiveness vanished. I knew on the spot that I loved this table for everything that it is and for everything that it will be.
NORRIS: Giada de Laurentiis is the author of GIADA'S FAMILY DINNERS and hosts a show on the Food Network. You can find a few of her recipes for your Easter table at our web site, NPR.org.