Spaghetti Night

spaghetti and meatballs, family, dinnerHow many spaghetti nights have I savored in my lifetime? I shudder to think of it, particularly during these low-carb days when pasta is a no no. Shaking my head, I avoid the thoughts in my head and reach for the ingredients from the shelf.

Why Spaghetti Night, I wonder as I start rolling the ground beef (lean), eggs, chopped onion, and parmesan cheese into meatballs. What would happen if instead I made, say, meatloaf, or God forbid, chicken cacciatore? 

I smile as I begin to sauté the meatballs in the large pan. I suppose one doesn’t sauté meatballs, but I’m not frying them for heaven’s sake. Browning, that’s the word. I’m browning the meatballs as I envision the horrified reaction of my family if I served something other than spaghetti on a Monday night.

It all began with my guy, of course. Although he comes from an Irish mother and an Italian father, he only acknowledges the Italian genes. He may be tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, but he’s Italian, by God, and Italians love their spaghetti.

So one of the first nights our kids were old enough to sit down at the dinner table with us and enjoy a “family conference”  – I think they were 2 and 4 years old – the man explained that real Italian families eat spaghetti at least once a week, so which day should we designate as Italian night?

The meatballs smell heavenly, and as the rain beats against the kitchen skylight I’m thankful that it’s Monday. I scoop the meatballs to a platter and add chopped green and red spaghetti, red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, family, dinnerpeppers to the pan, as well as a few mushrooms.

My 4-year-old daughter, that fateful day 25+ years ago, suggested that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays would be good spaghetti nights. She loved her dad and figured more would be better. My man’s eyes lit up and he agreed, “Okay!”

I put my foot down and replied, “Mondays. That’s it.” Thus, Monday Spaghetti Night was created.

The vegetables are sautéed and I add a bottle of Newman’s sauce. I could make my own, but Paul’s family does such a good job and the proceeds go toward charity. I add the meatballs and let everything simmer for two hours. When my guy comes home, he opens the front door, takes in a big whiff and exclaims, “Monday night!”

The kids are out of college and living on their own now. It’s just the two of us. But Monday nights are still, and always will be, Spaghetti Night.

Granddaughter Sophie wants to start the tradition with HER family.

Granddaughter Sophie wants to start the tradition with HER family.

Touchy Feely

Napa, brunch, bed and breakfast, cinnamon crisp, food, loveI spent the weekend in Napa with my man and friends visiting from the right coast, and they either insulted me or paid me a great compliment by the end of our time together.

“We didn’t realize you’re one of those ‘touchy feely’ kinds,” the couple said to me on Sunday.

At first I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong (assuming it was not a good thing to be touchy feely).

“Ah,” I finally answered. “Yes, I complimented the chef at the B&B we stayed in, but you don’t know the whole story.”

“You told him that the food he created for his guests came from his heart, not just from the ingredients, saucepans, and oven!” they exclaimed, a bit of recrimination in their voices.

I gulped. It did sound hokey when my friends repeated it, even though the chef made improbable but fabulous brunches for his weekend guests.

Imagine inn-made, melt-in-your-mouth cranberry scones with fresh fruit, yogurt, homemade jam and fresh-squeezed orange juice, then thick cheese sandwiches grilled with delightful homemade bread and a small cup of tomato bread soup cradled in the center of the plate.

Think tiny soft-on-the inside-crunchy-on-the-outside cinnamon twists that melted in eager mouths, then a five-inch square chef-made ravioli filled with ricotta, basil, and other savory spices, topped with a pouched egg. A weird combination that tasted like Tuscany and sun-ripened mornings.ravioli, food, Napa, bed and breakfast, brunch, love

“I read a newspaper article about the chef,” I explained defensively. “He’s the 10th of 17 children. In his family, cooking and serving meant survival and love. Plus, he became a Catholic priest until he realized he didn’t belong there. He had an epiphany on Epiphany and bought this B&B with his partner.”

“Sooooo?” my friends asked. “He serves good food to keep his guests coming back. It’s called economic survival.”

I shook my head. “This chef’s main ingredient is love. I could taste it in every bite. This is his service, not as a priest, but as a giver, a nurturer, maybe even a ‘touchy feely’ cook.”

My friends rolled their eyes.

My heart sank.

Can’t food preparation equate love?

Call me touchy feely (and I have a feeling many do), but I think so.

touchy feely, pineapple, food, love, granddaughter

First pineapple – a touchy feely food photo of granddaughter Sophie.

 

 

Breakfast of Champions

breakfast, championI used to fix myself a bowl of cereal every morning.

I hate cereal.

I hated it as a child; I hated it when I fixed it for years as an adult; and I hate it now, whether Cheerios or Shredded Wheat or Raisin Bran.

My mom is the reason I hate cereal (she’s smiling and protesting at the same time as she reads this, I bet.) But really, that’s what our “big fights” were about when I was a teenager.

“Pammy, you can’t go to school without breakfast.”

“I hate Wheaties,” I’d moan.

“Wheaties are good for you. Look at your brother – he’s on his third bowl.”

“Well, he’s a champion. I’m not,” I’d retort. Sarcastic for a 15-year-old, but my brother was a successful swimmer – trophies all over the house – so a bit of sisterly bile sprang out sometimes.

Maybe he’s the reason I hate cereal!

No matter, at 16 I discovered chocolate Instant Breakfast.  I’d drink it at 7:30 am in front of my mom’s scowling face. She’d explain to my dad: “At least she’s not going to school on an empty stomach.”

And then, fast forward to years later.cereal, breakfast

I found myself making my children eat cereal before school. The difference was that they LIKED it. I still didn’t, but I felt like I had to be a good role model, so I’d scarf down a small bowl while my son and daughter cheerfully compared cheerio holes every gosh darn morning.

Until suddenly, a year ago, I stopped pouring milk into my shredded wheat bowl mid-stream and said out loud: “why the hell are you doing this?!” I threw out the cereal and milk and the next day bought a fresh loaf of wheat bread.

Now my routine is a slice of toast with a dollop of peanut butter and strawberry jam on top.

I’m sure there’s a bigger message in here somewhere, like:

  • we adults get so stuck in our routines, we need to stop and think about what we really want. Or,
  •  life is short, give up what is unnecessary. Or,
  • live life to the fullest – enjoy every minute, and every morsel.

But really, all I’m saying is that I’m so much happier with my mornings.

What gets YOU going first thing? A bowl of Fruit Loops? A piece of chocolate pie? I dare you to divulge your breakfast secrets here.

toast, breakfast, free will

Sharing the Divine

I can communicate with animals.

Just last night, I stared straight into my golden retriever’s eyes and said silently, “Henry, do you really like that plain yogurt I give you every night with your dinner?”

He stared back liquid pools of brown love and answered, “Anything you give me is full of love, and how can love not taste divine?”

I sat back in my chair, stunned.

I wasn’t surprised that I’d heard Henry’s words as clearly as a train whistle, or a fog horn, or a hummingbird’s wings. His words have rung loudly other times, although I admit the phenomenon is rare.

Most times I feel his answer; if you’ve never communicated with an animal, you don’t know what I mean. But some dog or cat lovers are nodding their heads. We humans usually don’t like to admit that there’s a language bond between species, probably because humans own the ridiculous assumption that we’re superior to every other being.

No, I wasn’t shocked because he answered me, but instead taken aback by his words.

DIVINE.

Food and love, giving and receiving, cooking and eating, all are part of the Divine. With a capital D.

I raced to the kitchen, where earlier I’d placed half a dozen Meyer lemons from a friend’s garden. Henry watched me, knowingly, a little drool appearing on the side of his black gums.dog, eating, love, communicating with dogs, food

I started measuring sugar, cracking eggs, pouring flour into a bowl, turning the mixer at full speed, then allowing the dog to lick the beaters as his special treat.

Lemon bars. Cooling now on the rack, ready to share with others.

Sharing the Divine.lemon bars, food, sharing, love

1/2 c butter

1/4 c powdered sugar

pinch of salt

1c flour

Mix all together with until creamed.  Spread in greased 8×8 Pan and bake at 350# for 15 – 20 min.

Combine:

2 beaten eggs

1 c sugar

2 Tbl lemon juice and grated rind of 1 lemon.  Pour over hot dough, bake 20 min more.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.