June 2, 2016

Blog the Thirty-seventh: Chicken Cutlets Fancy

Three Ways 
(Plus bonus rollatini)

I once read on a NYC subway that it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes an Italian family to come up with a good chicken cutlet recipenot a nucleus of 2 parents, 2 kids, 3 cars, a dog & a nannybut a sprawling Italian family of aunts, uncles, and cousins that crosses not only the five Boroughs, but an ocean and a century, with transatlantic runners and gentile grafts. 

That commercial you have running in your head now of three generations of well-manicured women looking lovingly at one another across a casserole is not what I mean either.  Rather, as the founding fathers of the American republic understood that the best means to manage contention was to let contending interests contend until mutually canceling extremes give way to a mean, likewise recipes in my family contend until a family consensus pronounces sentence by acclamation—vox populi, vox Dei—dialectical contention giving way to general emulation.

My mother never liked my Aunt Rose’s chicken cutlets with white mushrooms and onions, which I love, so she never makes it, but I learned it from my aunt long ago, and I love to make it for dinner parties for gentile friends, who love it. For holiday dinners my mother loves to make her cutlets topped with tangy onions, which I’ve never liked and never make, even though the rest of my family all like it.  Aunt Rose’s daughter, my cousin, told me she has recently taken to making her mother’s cutlets with my Baby Bella mushrooms garlicky instead of her mother’s button mushrooms with onions, which if you ask me is not really her mother’s recipe at all, but a new recipe all her own.  Liking her mother’s recipe, I didn’t like the idea of hers, until I tried it on myself one night, with a difference I’ll tell you about, and now I like it precisely for its difference.  I’ll give you all these recipes here and you can pronounce and acclaim for yourself, as if a people.