All my ‘piccoli segreti” have to do with Hollywood, that’s the fertile, fabulous, funny source of my novels. These last few months I’ve made a concerted effort to tune out the digital and focus on people and the page, however, it’s been a nerve wracking time, to put it mildly. Yet, wonderful things occur amid the apprehension. On Saturday I got hugs from two women I didn’t know, one I gave directions to, the other was a Girl Scout leader after I made a donation to her troop. And then there were the points of contact that go straight to the soul, like an email from a friend — what strikes me about the MS is that you are the Jane Austen of Hollywood — that made me cry. Or a conversation with another friend, which also had me on the verge of happy tears, two hours on the phone while she puttered around in her NY apartment and I sat mesmerized as we chatted back through the years to when we were very young, and then right back to the present when we’ll be seeing each other again. We talked about everything-but-everything and she reminded me about how my mom, besides being politically active, adroit, and artistic, was a stellar cook. So, on a Sunday, I thought I’d post a recipe for something endorphin releasing and cozy, like Mama made, but first a glimpse into another time and place.
When I was young and attending school in a northern suburb of London we ate with our form at big wooden tables, family style, or family style with apron wearing lunch ladies who would roll a trolley to the table and set out the meal. Some of it was delectable — particularly dessert — because more often than not it was covered with custard sauce. Some things were mediocre, like elevenses, a snack of floppy brown bread spread with margarine, its only saving grace was the accompanying cup of milky tea. Then there were things that were mystifying, because they sounded familiar, like Spaghetti Bolognese, but were almost unrecognizable; limp noodles covered with a slippery gelatinous tomato sauce, topped with an unidentified meat object and speckled with suspect cheese — nothing like what I remembered from home.
Spaghetti Bolognese, the way my mother made it.
Well, not exactly the way my mother made it. Mom would go to her favorite butcher and buy a pound of chuck and grind it at home with a metal contraption she attached to the counter that you hand-cranked — and out would come hamburger. I know it’s important to know where your food comes from, but I like a little more distance between myself and once living ingredients.
Back to the Bolognese
In a separate pan fry three pieces of bacon until crisp, blot with paper towels and set aside. In a large skillet sauté one large diced onion in olive oil until it is caramelized. Mince a clove (or two) of garlic and toss into the pan and stir for thirty seconds, never brown your garlic. Add a pound of ground chuck and stir around with a fork until partially cooked, add a splash of half-and-half (this will tenderize the beef) and sauté until done. Add 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, one handful of fresh basil, and one bay leaf. Crumble your crispy bacon into the meat mixture. Pour in one large can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, one glass of good wine (white or red, but red makes your sauce a little purple), simmer for one hour until the flavors are developed. Salt and pepper to taste then serve on top of spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Poppets, you know what else is an act of love? Conversation over a home cooked meal with friends and family. I hope all your days are so blessed, but especially today.