As a young girl, I can remember the task of setting the table - every night for dinner and especially for the holidays. My mother has a set of dishes and linen for each holiday and like the menu, the table décor is fixed by tradition. If it is Easter, out comes the playful flowered napkins on a pastel pink cloth, with porcelain dishes lined with pink flowers. The stemware ranges from garden green tumblers to cranberry pink wines - depending on the company and their drink preferences. Any number of bunnies appear at the table and there is always a colored egg hidden among the various serving bowls and platters that hold the Easter Ham and its trimmings.
The Thanksgiving Table brings us the jewel-toned plaid print cloth with cooper chafers for the Thanksgiving Buffet. Plates are majolica pottery and utensils have copper handles. The stemware is made of hand-blown amber glass and napkins are complemented by a leafy copper ring. The colors from the trees outside mom's windows match perfectly to the table she (or we) set. The food on our plates continues the tradition of mom's sausage stuffing, sweet potato cobbler, mashed potatoes, green beans, cauliflower and carrots all to complement the 35 lb. roast turkey and mom's silky-smooth turkey gravy. And yes, out come the pumpkin, apple, and pumpkin-apple crumb pies, bowl of fresh fruit including tangerines (mom's favorite), whole nuts and dried figs and dates to complete the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving portrait.
Christmas comes but once a year and so do the handmade Italian white and pewter plates - each one a work of art, each one framing the holiday menu as a masterpiece prepared by the loving hands of our mom. The flatware for this table is antique pewter, the stemware is Italian crystal etched in sterling sliver and the service ware is adorned with woodland creatures hand-crafted in pewter and sliver - bears, deer, squirrels to name a few join our holiday table just once each year. All these accouterments are placed on a pure white Italian linen banquet cloth with matching white napkins. The table sparkles even against the snow of a White Christmas, and the feast of the seven seas begins the holiday eating which ends three days later.
I remember the childhood days of setting the table and mom cooking for family and friends to gather and enjoy not only a grand meal, but a grand memory filled with tradition, ritual, affection, devotion and adoration for the woman I (we) call mom. As we ready the Inn for the holidays, we must pay special tribute to Mrs. P. - the matriarch of the Pirone Family - for without her dedication to teaching us the art of hospitality and how to care for our guests, there would be no Stroudsmoor Country Inn as we, and many others, know it.
Thank you mom for sharing your recipes for generations to enjoy, for slaving over our stoves and pots each and every day for 34-years, and for instilling in us a sense of sharing, a need to gather good people around us, and a desire to share our holiday table with thousands of guests at the Inn every year.
From our house to yours, we wish you a blessed holiday season and hope that you will gather with family and friends each and every holiday to make a memory that will last a lifetime.
Yours in friendship,
The Pirone Family