Maxie is coming, Sito said. That was the command from the top that we would have a family get together on Sunday at Sito’s. Uncle Max and Aunt Phyllis Salem lived in Bayside (who lived in Bayside, it was the other side of the world?) with our cousins Scott and Alyse. Since he was coming from the other end of the world, we all gathered for a visit. Sito’s wisdom brought us all together on these monthly Sunday afternoons. All of the cousins would run around the house, playing gleefully together. It was our chance to bond, to get to know each other and the friendships formed on those special Sundays lasted a lifetime. As we each married and moved on, we cherished those Sunday afternoons at Sito’s house.
Only my Uncle Joe Salem was unmarried and of course, a few more cousins came along the way. So perhaps the younger of the 20 plus cousins on the Salem side of the family have different memories. My Uncle Joe was still single then, very cool and suave. He drove a convertible. I don’t think he liked all those kids running around the house!
Sito prepared the same menu each time. I don’t remember all the items she had except for three things. A large salad, fried kibbeh, and chicken and spaghetti Syrian style. I am positive there was more food, but those are the things I remember. The chicken and spaghetti was a good meal to serve a lot of people. Sito (aka Esther Salem) knew how to economize as she fed a large family. Syrian style chicken and spaghetti is the tomato sauce flavored with cinnamon and allspice (ohh, it is watering my mouth as we speak!). The secret to a dish like this is the long baking in the oven and the crispy spaghetti that sticks to the bottom of the large roaster. How we would fight for the crispy stuck on the bottom of the pan spaghetti. Delish!!!
It was a deeply entrenched part of our culture to visit our grandparents each week. We held them in high esteem. The most memorable part was the bonding we cousins had, the chance to unite because Maxie was coming!