Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stories in the Sauce

My house smells like Sunday dinner at my grandparents'.

I'm making a basic red sauce -- what some people call spaghetti sauce or marinara, or gravy. It's just tomato sauce to me, good for spaghetti or lasagna, meatball subs, or dunking chunks of crusty fresh Italian bread.

There are 150 mini-meatballs bobbing around in the simmering liquid, absorbing and giving flavor, thickening the sauce.

Everything's been cooking for a few hours, its fragrant steam wafting from the kitchen.

If I close my eyes and think back to childhood, the aroma puts me right in the middle of Grandma Stella's old fashioned kitchen with its faded formica counters and chipped enamel-coated stove. There's my grandmother, gray hair set, teased and sprayed in its usual style. A faded apron tied around her waist. She's rolling out freshly made dough on a floured cutting board. Taking a small, sharp knife, she cuts the dough into thin strips. You know that fresh pasta they sell for higher prices in the refrigerated section of the supermarket? Grandma made hers by hand, spreading the noodles out on clean dishtowels.

Earlier, she'd mixed up bread dough and let it rise, eventually shaping it into the yeasty rolls now waiting in the pan, ready to be baked.

Mom's not even trying to help. She knows from years of marriage that Grandma has Sunday dinner under control. Instead, she and I set the table. Dad, my brother and grandpa are either outside checking out the hunting dogs or sprawled in the living room watching the ball game. If I listen hard, I imagine I can hear their stomachs growling in anticipation of the meal ahead.

This is a typical family meal. A huge bowl of steaming, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, topped with grated parmesan. Hot, golden rolls to sop up extra sauce.

Nobody needs or wants anything else.

After the meal, stuffed and happy, we hang out for awhile watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and the Ed Sullivan show. Then we kiss my grandparents and head for home.

Sundays don't come any better.

A meal of spaghetti sauce and meatballs is my favorite thing to make for friends. I count it as a compliment when they clean their plates and ask for the recipe. I have to disappoint them, unfortunately. I don't have a recipe for this dish. I make it the way that Grandma did. Some of this, some of that. Taste. A little more of this. Don't forget that. Stir, simmer for a few hours. Taste. Adjust. Simmer. Serve.

Mangia!

1 comment:

Hopers said...

... And now I'm drooling!