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Arts & Culture

LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA: Home For The Holidays

Guests gather with Host Lidia Bastianich for LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA "Home for the Holidays."
Courtesy of Meredith Nierman
Guests gather with Host Lidia Bastianich for LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA "Home for the Holidays."

Airs Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA is a lively exploration of the rich diversity of cultures across the United States, and the vibrant ethnic and religious customs and traditions observed by various groups — in which food is a common denominator that connects all human beings. Previous series focused on the different ways Americans celebrate weddings, holiday traditions, independence and life’s milestones.

Host Lidia Bastianich prepares Christmas dinner.
Courtesy of Meredith Nierman
Host Lidia Bastianich prepares Christmas dinner.
Conductor Carlo Ponti, Jr. with Actress Rita Morena and Journalist Ann Curry.
Courtesy of Meredith Nierman
Conductor Carlo Ponti, Jr. with Actress Rita Morena and Journalist Ann Curry.
Marinated winter squash as a part of Christmas dinner.
Courtesy of Meredith Nierman
Marinated winter squash as a part of Christmas dinner.

From Lidia

“The holidays are a great time of the year. We all look forward to them and we have a great time, but I think the holidays are much more meaningful,” says Lidia Bastianich. “It’s a time to really assess our values in life and to talk about who we really are and where we come from — our roots, our culture. I think that the holidays are a time to relax, to reflect, to enjoy each other, to replenish our souls and our senses, and then be ready to move on in life until another year.”

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For celebrity chef, author and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich, there is no place like home — especially at Christmas, her favorite time of year. In this new special—the latest installment of her journey to experience diverse American culture through food—Lidia invites six celebrity guests of different ethnic backgrounds to her holiday table: Christopher Walken, award-winning actor and childhood friend; award-winning actress Rita Moreno; Ann Curry, television journalist; model and television host Padma Lakshmi; celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson; and Carlo Ponti, Jr., composer.

Combining the best of the old and the new, Lidia shares her own culinary customs with the varied holiday traditions of her guests in “Home For The Holidays.” The film tells the deeply personal stories of each individual’s journey to America, and their life through hardship and triumph — all set against a backdrop in which they share a wonderful and delicious meal, a meal that represents the melting pot of flavors that are all part of celebrating the yuletide in New York.

“Home For The Holidays” begins in the kitchen and ends at the dinner table of Lidia’s home in Queens, where Lidia has prepared a dish inspired by each of her guests’ roots and ethnic culinary traditions, peppered with their moving personal stories and unique tales from their homelands. Some of the dishes include sweet potatoes and cannellini beans inspired by Padma Lakshmi, Christopher Walken’s sautéed scallops and Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs.

In the one-hour documentary, filmmakers follow Lidia back to the courtyard in Istria where she was born and the political refugee camp where she stayed for two years prior to coming to America. Lidia visits Chennai, India, with Padma Lakshmi, where she learns the culinary traditions of her homeland and understands the stories and struggles behind her departure from India. She heads to Harlem to talk to Marcus Samuelson, and then meets with Rita Moreno at one of her favorite restaurants in Manhattan to share immigration stories. Composer Carlo Ponti, Jr., son of movie star Sophia Loren and filmmaker Carlo Ponti, visits Lidia at her own restaurant, where she invites him to taste one of his favorite Neapolitan dishes made at Christmas time: spaghetti with clam sauce.

The guests get together, sharing their fondest childhood memories, remembering what they coveted most and recounting the events that eventually impelled them to leave the countries they once called home. Many of these recollections are brought back to life through food. As seen through the eyes of six unique individuals, “Home For The Holidays” shows how food is the tie that binds us together in a dramatic, yet relatable, way. It underscores the reality that our native traditions are ultimately what distinguish us and make each our lives unique.

Lidia Bastianich is on Facebook, and you can follow @LidiaBastianich on Twitter.

Lidia Celebrates America: Home for the Holidays Preview

Home for the Holidays: Conversation About America

"Set against a backdrop in which they share a deliciously diverse dinner

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Home For the Holidays: Rita Moreno

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Home For the Holidays: Christopher Walken

"Academy award winning American actor

Home For the Holidays: Padma Lakshmi

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Home For the Holidays: Marcus Samuelsson

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