Before I was old enough to walk, my grandmother made it her business to see that the number of fat cells in my body far outweighed blood cells, or brain cells or any of the other necessary components of myself.

When I worked up to a huge plate of pasta a day at the age of 9 months, she praised me. When I ate that and stole my brother's, she cheered me on. When I was old enough to add bread and a second course, she began to relax -- slightly. She made sure I was never more than a step away from my favorite foods -- and what a list. Cavatelli, mezzani, veal and peppers, the best meatballs anywhere, roasted peppers, coppacola, torrone, cannoli.

Grandma cooked all day, every day, for a rapt audience. The kitchen was the theater-in-the-round of the longest-running one-woman show in town. We were her props, her supporting players, her directors ("Grandma, don't you think the gravy needs a little water?" "Grandma, I know you made the hearts, but don't you think we should pick up some pastry from Ferrara's?") and her critics, though no one cared or dared to criticize her except my grandfather.

You grow up, go to college, get married, move far away, and learn foreign languages like "diet" and "exercise". The feasts dissolve into archetypal memory, stirred during holidays, or times of stress -- or when you think of the several great gifts that life (and your grandmother) has given you.