I can give you the recipe, but I can’t teach you how to make it
My mother’s spaghetti sauce with meatballs and sausages was renowned in my family. My grandmother on the Italian side of the family once said she made the best sauce in the family. This caused quite a stir, since my mom was on the Irish side.
Words were exchanged about it. Recipes were not exchanged!
One of the things I have been doing while staying at home during the COVID-19 outbreak here in New York is cooking favorite recipes. My mom’s sauce takes a long time, and so it is something to do on a rainy day, or on a day where you have nowhere else to go. Perfect for this time in our lives.
Making this precious family recipe requires time to put just the right ingredients into it. Time spent mixing the meatballs, time spent pan frying them and the sausages before adding them to the sauce.
The process also requires attention and willingness to adjust to circumstances.
There were few measurements that my mom used — she normally started with 3 pounds of meat and made 24 meatballs. She made the meatballs quickly and efficiently. My dad bought her a pan that was just the right size for 24 meatballs at once. She used large cans of tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, adding more tomatoes or even a can or two of sauce if it didn’t seem like enough sauce in the pot once the meat went in. She didn’t measure the wine or much of anything else — she knew by smell and by taste if it was right and added what was needed. I spent years in her kitchen watching her, tasting the sauce and proclaiming that it needed a bit more salt, or that it was “just perfect”!
My mom passed away almost 25 years ago. When I make her sauce I think of her, of my dad and that big frying pan he bought and use to this day. I always end up with exactly 24 meatballs when I make them, because I make them the same size she did. I could tell you how much meat to include, but I can’t tell you the size to make the balls. I would have to show you. It takes time spent together.
My daughter reached out to me today for advice. She, like so many others, is juggling suddenly home schooling her children while also running a business. She told me about some struggles she was having with one of the kids and told me what she had done so far. I made a suggestion of things I would have said to her, and she put down the phone and said those kinds of things and then came back and told me it had helped!
She didn’t need me to show her the exact things to say — she and I have spent enough time together that she knew the right size to make her words.
Right now this virus is taking away our ability to be spending the time together that would be “just perfect” in so many ways. Our cellphones and our memories have to be good enough. I’m finding that leaning in to those memories can be enough, has to be enough.
We can choose to spend this time strengthening our relationships with the people we love and have our families remain connected and loving one another, no matter how far apart we are.
While we are at it, we can also spend the time making some great sauce.
I can give you the recipe for that sauce, I can even give you a recipe for a supportive, loving, family, but I can’t teach you how to make either one. You have to spend the time for that.