My Mom didn’t really like to cook much. I grew up on a diet of canned vegetables, meat, and potatoes. It’s what my Dad wanted and didn’t require a lot of thought or energy. I totally get that. So much of the time I feel uninspired by food. I try, and with effort can put a dinner on the table that both tastes good (if a little bland at times) and is nutritious. The truth is, though, that food does not move me. Well, brownies move me, but dinner, not so much.
I married into a foodie family, which has been a bit tough at times. I always worry that my in-laws feel disappointed in my lack of food curiosity and I sometimes feel pressured to know more, try more, eat differently. And seriously, if any of you gals want to take Mary Tyler Dad on a sushi date, I will not stand in your way. Poor guy.
That said, there are a few recipes that my Mom made that I cherish. Oh! And they are delicious. My Mom could bring it when she wanted to — just like me. When I miss her or need an extra shot of comfort in my life, I bring them out to help me feel close to her. Their smells are evocative of her, just like Oil of Olay and White Linen perfume. Most of them I have; some have disappeared into the ether. Sloppy joes, lemon pork chops, peach meat loaf, lasagne with cottage cheese, pot roast with prunes. My folks married in 1958, so there is a Mad Men quality to these dishes that I simply adore and romanticize.
Her chop suey was one of my favorites as a kid. What I ate of it consisted of the meat broth over rice and cooked celery, but the flavor was strong and delicious. Once, in the grocery store, I asked my Mom what kind of meat was in the chop suey. “Snake meat,” she replied. I recoiled in horror, but also loved the wicked nature of my Mom’s humor, knowing from the twinkle in her eye that she was kidding. She was lovely that way. Wicked humor in a Mom is a good quality.
Yesterday I made a triple batch of my Mom’s spaghetti sauce. The babysitters were coming over during the dinner hour and a friend just had a baby — both perfect fits for a warm dish of spaghetti. I posted a photo on Facebook and a few folks asked for the recipe. Here it is. Oh, and this is approved by all three in Mary Tyler Family — a foodie, a meat and potatoes gal, and a three year old. That is the trifecta of hard to please. Mangia!
Mrs. Q’s Spaghetti Sauce
yellow onion, chopped
1-11/2# ground beef, browned and drained
28 oz. diced tomatoes
12 oz. tomato paste
6 oz. water
6 oz. red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
add garlic to taste
Saute onion in olive oil until tender, translucent. Brown and drain meat (FAT CAN!). Add onions, tomatoes, tomato paste and stir. Add liquids and stir. Add dry ingredients and stir. Simmer on very low heat for two hours, though tastes best when flavors have had time to wed in fridge or freezer. Can be doubled or tripled. Serve with spaghetti noodles, garlic toast, and green salad.
Hey, I’ve never written about food before. Should I do it again? Per my usual, it would be about the emotional impact of food in our day-to-day. Let me know if that might float your boat.