Food is like a cooling balm on an agitated soul. Nothing brings me back to center, back to peace like cooking. There is something rhythmic and elegant about gliding through one’s kitchen adding this and chopping that. My number one go to comfort food during times of stress is spaghetti. For many this may be a jar of sauce and some noodles but for me this is a meal that touches my most inner spirit.
Although my mother is Jewish she has always made her spaghetti sauce from scratch. To this day I have no idea where she learned to make spaghetti sauce. I don’t know if she found the recipe in a book or if some strange Italian woman bestowed her secrets. My mother has just always known how to make it and she has never used a written recipe. One of the first things my mother ever taught me to make was spaghetti sauce. I have spent countless hours in my mother’s kitchen talking about school, work, life all while stirring a pot of tomatoes and herbs. The strong smell of basil and oregano permeating the house. The silent dance as we gathered boiling water, toasted French bread and tossed salad. My mother and I have made this meal so many times together that instructions are no longer required. We quietly fall into our roles and the meal is produced as if by magic.
David and I face an ocean of uncertainty at the moment. We both are pretending like we’re not worried. We say encouraging things to each other, smile, hug, give each other big pep talks but the undercurrent in our lives right now is one of “what if”. I plated the spaghetti and sat it on the table. Little green piles of salad tossed in a simple vinaigrette snuggled up against the circle of pasta. The kids told knock-knock jokes and David obliged them with smiles and giggles. As I filled my stomach with my mother’s spaghetti sauce I was transported back to her kitchen and the feeling that my mother was hugging me from thousands of miles away. Everything will be fine.
Life is always going to surprise you with riotous change but it is the simple foundational pieces of your life that will carry you along – like knowing how to make a good spaghetti sauce from scratch.
MaMa Callaway’s Spaghetti Sauce
1lb ground beef
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 large cans of tomato sauce
1 can of tomato paste
3 Tbs Oregano
1 Tbs Basil
1 Tbs Garlic Salt
1 Tbs Sugar
Dice the onion, and mince the garlic. Sauté both in the bottom of a large stock pot with a Tbs of olive oil. Add ground beef and brown while breaking up the meat. Once the meat is cooked drain the fat off. Return the meat to the pot and add the cans of tomatoes, sauce and paste (play with the sauce/paste combination until you get the consistency you like. I prefer mine thicker but it is personal). Add spices – the quantities here are estimates and again you should flavor to your taste preferences. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. If desired you can also add mushrooms or diced zucchini. Add them with the tomatoes and just make sure you simmer the pot long enough to cook the veggies.