I love spaghetti and meatballs. Always have. In fact, it’s one of the first foods that I remember enjoying. Picky Eater doesn’t even come close to describing my disinterest in food as a kid. But Ma’s S ‘n M was a whole other story. Now I’m no connoisseur, but I have eaten enough to know a good meatball when I taste it. Trust me, her’s were the best. And her marinara sauce? To live for.
It wasn’t so much what Ma put into this weekly Italian favorite that made it so spectacular. But how she prepared it that made the world of difference. Like all good cooks she had her secrets. Her little arsenal of remarkable tastes that you couldn’t quite put a finger-licking finger on.
One of my all-time fondest memories is the smell of Saturday morning at 204.
Fresh coffee brewing, bacon and eggs frying, Shaw’s white bread toasting. Fused with these intoxicating breakfast scents, was the savory smell of Ma’s spaghetti sauce simmering on top of the stove. Imagine waking up to that every Saturday morning. Trust me, it was the top of the comfort mountain. A warm hug from heaven. A kiss sweeter than your first. A gentle breeze fluttering through gossamery white curtains. Quite simply, nothing else like it.
I don’t have a recipe to share with you because Ma never cooked that way. Like all good cooks, it was pinch of this, a dash of that, a dollop and a handful. Everything to taste and talent. There’s a certain kind of genius at play, that’s impossible to describe. Besides, you don’t need the S ‘n M recipe anyway. For it’s not the physical ingredients that made it taste so good.
What made my all-time fave comfort food so lip-smacking, scrumptious and sinfully delicious were these 5 things:
1. Start early. Be the first one up. Breathe in those early quiet and peaceful moments just before dawn. Solitude in the kitchen is a divine gift. Cherish it. Let the whisper of God and the whistle of nature inspire you. Run your fingers over the fresh ingredients that will be the life of the sauce. Let your eyes feast on their colors. Inhale the herbs and spices that will infuse spirit into the sauce. Begin.
2. Good things take time. Never rush the sauce. Honor the process. Allow it to simmer on low. To slowly fill the house with its intoxicating delectable aroma. Room by room. Let it fill every inch with pleasure. Long and lazy that’s the key. Enjoy.
3. Double-dip family style. Let the taste testers dive in. All day long. Let the lid lift and open to an explosion of fragrant Italian goodness. Let the well-seasoned wooden spoon plunge into the saucy depths. Let them sip, sup and savor. Repeat.
4. Anticipation. Things taste better when filled with scrumptious expectancy. The longer the wait, the better the taste. Especially with marinara and spicy meatballs. As the divine bouquet fills the air, let your imagination wonder to the end of the day. Mealtime. Picture yourself there. Lick your lips. Savor.
5. Love. The essence of everything. The heart. The soul. The gist. The marrow of all good things. And all things that taste good.
There you have it. The delicious intangibles. The ethereal ingredients. The exquisite elements. The sorcery in the sauce.