A Tradition Slightly Tweaked


Tevye sings about it in the Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

And the Benedetti’s live and breathe it every holiday.

Christmas Eve in our family means a traditional meatless dinner of fish and spaghetti. Christmas day you make lasagna and you carefully shape and fry the meatballs for the lasagna. It doesn’t matter that the meatballs are pulverized beyond recognition before you put them into the lasagna.

It’s tradition.

You mold and cook the meatballs before you cut them up. Period. You don’t mess with tradition.

So, one year when I was just a wee one and watching my Nonnie make meatballs for our Christmas meal, I asked her, “Nonnie, why do you roll up the meat and fry it, and then turn around and smush it all up before you make the lasagna?”

My Nonnie, never one to waste words when she didn’t have to, slowly bent her balding gray head to peer over her Ben Franklin glasses and said, “Lucie, non-ja bother Nonnie right now. I’m a busy makin’ a meat-ta-balls. Go outside and make-a-ta-snowman.”


Years go by and I’m watching my Mom make lasagna one holiday. She makes the meatball mixture, gets out a small cast iron frying pan, puts some olive oil in it, and starts heating the pan to fry the meatballs.

I decide to bring up the meatball question again and ask my Mom, “Why such a small frying pan, Mom, for so many meatballs?”

“Because, Lucie,” she says. “You want the meatballs to fry evenly and you don’t want to waste olive oil.”

By this time, I’m in college and have some education under my belt, so I ask her, “Ma, why waste time, energy and olive oil? Can’t you just make a big meatball patty, fry it up in a Teflon pan, not use any olive oil and have a healthier meatball mixture for the lasagna? It doesn’t make sense to spend all that time making meatballs and then break them apart for the lasagna.”

Cazzo (Ot-so!), Lucie!” Mom responds. “You drive me nuts. Ya wanna leave me alone and go put up some Christmas decorations?”


Eventually, I move out to CA from my home in upstate NY and start my own Christmas traditions and decide to make lasagna for my friends. I’m prepping the lasagna in advance, so I can just pop it into the oven on the night I serve it, and I catch myself standing over a small frying pan; carefully turning the meatballs in the olive oil. Suddenly, it dawns on me, “Cazzo! I’m doing the same damn thing my mother and Nonnie did for years. What the heck is wrong with me?”


Today I’m old and balding like my mother and Nonnie before me, and I’m making lasagna like tradition dictates, but my meatball mixture is frying up as one monster pancake in a large Teflon pan as I write this. And the last time I tested it, the meatball tortilla tasted just as good as Mom’s and Nonnie’s.

Traditions are important. Carefully woven, they make a family a family, and certainly make for good memories and storytelling. Sometimes, though, traditions need to be tweaked, or we need to start a new one.

This was one of those times.

Hopefully, Nonnie’s looking down from the heavens – over those silly Ben Franklin glasses of hers and grinning from ear to ear – watching her pesky granddaughter still carrying on a Benedetti tradition; a tradition slightly tweaked, but a tradition steeped in love and years of family history.

Have a great Christmas, People, and a blessed, healthy New Year, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.


Published by


I'm a retired special ed teacher, born in upstate NY, who spent most of my adult life in the SF/Bay Area and moved to the Olympic Peninsula of WA in June of 2017. At the encouragement of family and friends, who followed my silliness on my FB page, I started this blog a few years ago. I try to keep my topics as humorous as possible (because I believe "LIFE" is pretty serious these days), but will, on occasion write about more solemn subjects. I sincerely appreciate all who take the time and effort to read and make comments and am truly humbled when people actually "like" what I write. I do not participate in the "Wordpress awards" because I feel "awarded" when individuals actually read me and comment, but sincerely appreciate all of you who have considered me "award worthy" and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hugs, Lucie

20 thoughts on “A Tradition Slightly Tweaked”

  1. Hey Lucie,
    I have been so slack and missed your two latest stories, I should give myself an upper cut for that Lucie, not good enough!!
    So here’s the deal, when it comes to Tradition in our Christmas menu, just like your Nonnie, our Nanna’s lovingly cooked our traditional dish of plum pudding steamed for hours with a LUCKY sixpence embedded in the pudding. This story of your traditional lasagna takes me back to me jumping all around my Nanna then my Mum asking ” please can I mix the sixpence into the pudding”. Crikey knows who come up with this idea originally, but gosh it was fun every Christmas to see who ended up with the slice of pudding with the sixpence in it. We usually didn’t have to wait long because someone either choked on the dash thing or broke a tooth, NO ONLY KIDDING!!!
    In our modern era when our currency changed and our five cent coins had too much copper and nickel in them so they would turn green when boiled for hours in the pudding, this was the sad end of the traditional sixpence in our Plum Pudding. The Plum Pudding is still tradition only without the fun of someone chomping on the LUCKY sixpence.
    I love Italian tucker Lucie, your traditional Christmas Lasagna sounds yummo!!!
    Once again mate you have told us about your pesky litttle self asking too many questions when your Nonnie and your Ma were busy concentrating on making the meatballs, not one bit interested in your brilliant idea of making one big mince tortilla.
    It’s a story about family, love and traditions that we pass down through the generations, you bring wonderful memories alive for all your readers Lucie.
    So OK we have to tweak a tradition here or there but we continue to make our Lasagna and our Chrissy Puds and often in the process we find ourselves saying ” This is our Nonnie’s or Nanna’s traditional recipe ” Thankyou Lucie for taking me back to my childhood memories, I felt the love, the excitement, the fun and the story that comes with slightly tweaked family traditions.
    Great story mate
    Luvs ya Lucie and big ol’ hugs headed your way
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problemo, Little Buddy! Geesh…ya think maybe you’ve got a few other things to do in life besides read ‘ole Lucie heres blog?! Your family’s tradition of putting the 6 pence in the pudding sounds quaint….with MY luck, I could see me breaking a tooth on the thing, but then it woulda been another story to tell, eh? Anyway, Buddy, glad you enjoyed the read. The other one is a Janet story that I especially loved…she hasn’t published it yet on her blog…it was a newspaper column that she recently put in and I absolutely loved it. Thanks for stopping by my Aussie buddy! Love ya big time. Keep healing and I’ll keep praying….Luvs ya, Buddy! Lucie ❤


  2. It’s fun to be surprised by reading something you’ve created and I haven’t already seen. This is delightful writing and storytelling, Lucie. I liked how quickly yet clearly you captured moments of interaction with your grandmother, your mother, and yourself — all on the topic of meatballs. I could visualize each scene and chuckle along with you. And i especially enjoyed the way you tied it together with thoughts about the ways traditions bind us together and evolve. Very nice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We probably didn’t have any particular Christmas traditions, other than the fact that my grandmother always brought home-made cranberry sauce. My mum would be cooking all day long, and Pauline would show up with a bowl of cranberries. To hear her tell it, she’d gone to New England and picked them all with her own dishpan hands.
    The oddest thing my grandmother did was the way she fixed boiled potatoes. Yes, plain boiled potatoes. She’d boil them, then drop them into a pan if ice water, and once they were cool enough to handle, she put them BACK into the boiling water.
    After years of observing this operation, I finally asked her why she did that. She told me the ice water drove the heat into the center of the potatoes, which made them taste better. Might have something to do with the fact that lowly spud is the one vegetable I really don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear…wish I didn’t like them that much, but alas, I love them…..especially with gravy!! Merry Christmas!!!! Hope it’s a great one! (((Hugs))) Lucie 😉


    1. You’re too funny, Buddy! 😉 Merry Christmas, Linda! May you and your family have a safe, fun holiday filled with good food, good friends and great memories! ❤ (((Hugs))) Lucie


    1. Here’s to Italian Nonna’s who “kicked us out to play”!!! Merry Christmas, dear Beth, and a healthy, happy New Year to you and the family!!! ❤ (((Hugs))) Lucie


  4. How funny. I would’ve been asking the same questions. They probably didn’t want you to bother them with those questions because they knew there was no good answer other than that’s just how it’s always been done. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep….they just wanted me outta their hair while they did their thing with the lasagna. Once, when my Mom was out here visiting from NY, I fried them “my way”…..she just smiled, politely ate the “meat pancake” and said “to each his own”…..;) Merry Christmas!!! Enjoy the season with the kids and family! ❤ Lucie

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I make my lasagna with sausage. I crumble it as much as humanly possible and continue to chop it to bits as it cooks, then drain all of the fat off. But traditions are meant to be kept.

    I am about to incorporate CAZZO into my daily verbiage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sausage is the OTHER meat that is added in ADDITION to the meatball mixture! 😉 And just so ya know, “CAZZO (Ot-so!)” is a SWEAR word…..just wanna make sure you know that before you go and use it around people who may take offense… 😉

      Merry Christmas, Kiddo….Praying that 2017 is a better year for you… ❤ Lucie

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As the song TRADITION spins around in my head as I read your story, I realize that not being Italian and making the traditional Italian meals, or so I thought traditional meals. There was always one thing, one ingredient always left out of the instructions when told how to make an Italian food feast. Today I realize it’s the meatballs that were never mentioned to add to my lasagne. Always making my dish not exactly traditional like I thought. I guess it’s an Italian tradition to not tell everything. Maybe I’ll go out and make a snowman. Nonnies tradition stand true all these years later, give them what you want them to know, not all you know. I love my Italian family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah… “the SECRET ingre-da-munt”!!!! The meatballs….you shoulda known!!! Glad you enjoyed….now you’ve got a “new tradition”, eh???? Love my “American Family!” ❤ Merry Christmas, Jo!


  7. yes tradition. i love it. i’m on my way down to santa cruz to start to shop and prepare for the fest )) eve. is fresh crab and ciopinno , fried cardone, french bread and plenty of vino i have to cook plain fresh crab for my american husband and best friend no ciopinno for them. christmas is raviolis and and roast or turkey. this year prime rib many blessings my friends we will connect early jan. Merry Christmas Buon Natale vita

    Vita Hall. Coldwell Banker Relocation Specialist 650 823 9248 Vitahall@comcast.net 01262611 bre


    Liked by 1 person

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