Not long ago, I was part of a TV focus group.  A team of interviewers came to my home and reviewed my television-viewing spreadsheet, then asked me all kinds of questions about my feelings as I watched TV. 

I bring this up because I cooked “homesick food” this evening; I love Italian food under any circumstances, but I had peppers to pick and to use up, so I made peperonata, which is assorted peppers and onions, sauteed and then simmered with tomatoes.  I make mine agrodolce, which translates to “sweet and sour,” by adding some red wine vinegar during the last 15 minutes of cooking.  I found artichokes at a reasonable price, so we ate those as appetizers.  A bit of bread and pasta, and dinner was complete.  I feel completely satisfied.

As I told the focus group people, for me, cooking is vicarious travel.  When I cook German food, we celebrate our many trips to visit our dear friends who live near Heidelberg and we talk about the fun times we’ve shared with them.  (Last Halloween, we carved pumpkins and took our children trick-or-treating…what a crazy experience!)

After spending nearly five years in southern Italy, slow-cooked Italian food brings back so many wonderful images…sitting by the water in Gaeta, enjoying pizza and sharing experiences with new friends…celebrating a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day with my family in a Sicilian restaurant stuffed with families feasting on seafood mousse, pizzas, and happiness…watching my husband and his good buddy Gene grilling 40 Euros’ worth of lamb spiedini on the now-infamous charcoal-fired spiedini grill…

This is why parenting experts tell us to share meals with our family, both immediate and extended.  The memories last forever, and one whiff of a favorite dish brings them rushing back.  As my son puts it, “Travel’s all about the view and the food.  There isn’t anything else.”

With family in view and delicious food to enjoy, we can’t possibly go wrong.