There’s always camaraderie when people gather around a table with chef Lidia Bastianich.
The PBS special, “Lidia Celebrates America: Freedom and Independence” Friday, June 28 (check local listings), demonstrates that the camaraderie runs deeper than food — it is one of ideals.
In the third of her specials, Bastianich travels to chef Jacques Pepin’s Connecticut home, where they discuss Bastille Day.
In Galveston, Texas, actress Anna Deavere Smith accompanies Bastianich as she learns about Juneteenth, the celebration of Galveston’s slaves being freed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
And in New York, she celebrates Philippines Independence Day with actor Alec Mapa. All, of course, are done with food as a central theme, and Bastianich tries new dishes, including Filipino banana ketchup. When she learns that it’s put on pasta, the celebrated Italian chef jokingly says, “That’s sacrilegious.”
Bastianich visits Monticello in Virginia, where a naturalization ceremony is held on Independence Day.
“We followed one young lady who was Persian, and she never had an opportunity to vote,” Bastianich tells Zap2it.
The moment she’s a citizen, the woman registers to vote. Bastianich, an immigrant from the former Istria, spent two years in a political refugee camp, then came here with her family when she was 12. She completely relates to wanting to exercise the privilege of casting a ballot.
“When I came to America, we finally found a place to call home,” she says. “When I was 18, I wanted to become part of this country.”
Bastianich cherishes the freedoms here and, like so many immigrants, remembers what she was once denied.
“I was small, but I knew I could not go to church,” she says. “I knew my grandmother had to sneak me in. I know what it means to gain freedom. I realized this is an opportunity and I took it.
“And there is so much that one can do that America offers,” she continues. “I want to tell everyone how wonderful America is, and how great and how much it does for all different ethnicities and still allows us to be ourselves.”