I’m Italian, and well as any good Italian woman knows, the best way to a man’s heart is through is stomach. Right? Well maybe 😉
I grew up watching and learning how to cook while standing on a kitchen chair, stove side right next to my nana. While holding onto her apron strings I would taste off of her wooden spoon. I also learned from my mom as well, but we all agree, I cook more like my nana with some influences of my mom sprinkled in. That’s not saying my mom doesn’t know how to cook, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. She’s amazing in the kitchen! I just I fondly remember the rare occasions when my nana was healthy enough during my younger years and she was able to walk, cook, play baseball, learn how to ride a bike at 72 years old, and enjoy the things she loved. As she got older she suffered from dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, and multiple strokes that would later paralyze her. So the strong, independent woman who taught me how to play baseball in the street, and how not to take shit from anyone, became the woman I would soon care and cook for. I cherish the memories, all of them, good and bad.
So when my mom knew I was going to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner last week, before I left the house she tucked in a little keepsake for me to take. I saw a little blue and white checkered piece of material sticking out of the bag I had my stuffing mix and apples in.
“Hey, mom what did you put in the bag? ”
“Well you’re going to be cooking so I wanted you to have a little something of nana’s with you while you were doing it. Just make sure you dance with the turkey before you pop it into the oven, oh and clean it real good too with plenty of salt.”
I admit I teared up a little. I knew my mom had some of my nana’s aprons saved over the years, and there were many different kinds. Ones that just went around her waist, some that were around her neck and waist with strings to secure them, and ones like this above that were more of a duster apron with snap buttons down the front. I kissed mom, thanked her, and was soon on my way.
When I got to Dave’s house he had a puzzled look on his face.
“What’s this for?” Holding up the apron as he was helping me unpack the groceries.
“That right there, is a piece of history!” I went on to explain the story of my nana, her aprons, and how I learned to cook.
I didn’t wear the apron while cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I set it on the chair at the kitchen table, and nana had a seat with us on Thanksgiving. She was there in spirit, as she is always with me, but to have a piece of her around was extra special. Her apron is still on Dave’s kitchen chair, just as it is in the photo.
I haven’t decided what I am going to do with it. Should I hang it up? Should I put it back in the drawer at my house? Should I use it? Should I make it into something else? The possibilities are endless, but knowing I still have a little tangible item of hers, besides her wedding band and engagement ring, is comforting.
So this past Sunday while we were cooking dinner, and I had the pot of sauce simmering for 4 hours on the stove, Dave asked if I learned how to make sauce from nana or mom. Again I told him it’s a little of both but mainly nana’s sauce. And yes it is Sauce not Gravy! One of the age old debates among Italians lol. Gravy is brown stuff you put on meat, and sauce is that gold standard simmered for 4 hours minimum of decadent tomatoes and wonderful herbs and spices. That’s sauce baby. I guess you could call a meat sauce gravy if you want, but if you invite me over for pasta and gravy I’ll assume you’re serving some brown gravy with it and I will kindly pass 😉
While sitting down for some homemade chicken cutlet parmesan, I had a small container of extra sauce set at the table. Dave put the tablespoon into the container and it wasn’t moving.
“What the heck is in this stuff?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Well, hun that’s what sauce is all about. The thicker the better. You know it cooked for a good amount of time and all the flavors are perfected. You wont find that in any store bought shelf stable jar sauce for damn sure!”
That right there is stick to your ribs, 4 hour cooked sauce, with extra love added in. You can’t buy it, you can only get it if someone cares enough to put the time and effort into it.
Damn, I must really like you, D.H. 😉 you’re one lucky guy that I put this much love and care into all I do, but it’s all worth it to me, because you do that and so much more every day as well. Full bellies, full hearts!