Spring is for Sports, so Let’s Eat

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Everyone is dying for spring, but I am in no rush, mostly because of my allergies. Who am I kidding? It’s because of the sports. This spring I am going to lose my mind shuttling three kids between five sports. I enjoy watching my kids play sports, but if I’m being honest, I don’t enjoy it that much. Certainly not as much as my husband.

Growing up, my husband played football, basketball, and baseball and he excelled at each one. So naturally, watching his kids play sports brings back a lot of wonderful memories.

For me, though, there’s not much to which I can relate. In my youth, I played competitive piano and my exposure to sports was extremely limited. Aside from the 1986 World Series and the OJ Simpson murder trial, my family didn’t really even watch sports on TV.

Today, all kids seem to do is play sports (and Minecraft), and I’ve had a really hard time pretending I know what’s going on. It’s not that I don’t try, I do, but eventually I zone out, irritated by all the noise, especially the piercing whistles. I start thinking about all kinds of things I know no one else on the sidelines is thinking given that there is an actual game going on.

You would think that I would just sit there and politely keep my non-sports thoughts to myself, but I don’t. Instead, I share them. I start blabbing about whatever pops into my head. Most of the time, these thoughts are about food. Here is the transcript of an actual conversation I had with my husband at my son’s basketball game a few weekends ago:

Husband: “Oh my God, how did that not go in?”

Me: “Oooooo! So close!”

Husband: “He’s gotta make those.”

Me: “So I know we said sushi for dinner, but Greg wants spaghetti and meatballs.”

Husband (shouting): “WHO’S GOT 15?”

Me: “Actually, I bet I could get Greg to eat a meatball sub from Subway.”

Husband: “STAY SQUARE!! SQUARE UP!!”

Me: “No, I can’t do that. Subway is junk.”

Husband: “Great job boys!”

Me: “Good job guys!!

Husband: “Whatever you want for dinner, I don’t care. GREG, GET BACK ON D!”

Me: “Alright, well, let me see what he says after the game. I really don’t want to cook tonight. I’m so tired. What time is this over?”

Husband: “HELP HIM OUT, HELP HIM OUT!!!”

Me: “My skin is so dry, I can’t deal. Don’t forget I’m going to that party tonight.”

Husband: “GREAT PASS! What party?”

Me: “The Oscar party, after dinner.”

Husband: “Oh. So don’t cook then. Just do Subway. THREE SECONDS!”

Me: “I don’t want Subway.”

Husband: “That’s right, you said sushi. WATCH IT, HE’S REACHING IN!”

Me: *yawn*

Sometimes, I will be at a game without my husband and my boredom will compel me to start chatting up another Mom, even though she is giving no indication that she is open to chatting. I’ll ask her if she has tried the new restaurant in town and she will answer me but two seconds later she will break eye contact to scream positive encouragements at her child across the field, making me feel like a boob for ever venturing into non-sports territory in the first place. Even my closest friend once gave me “The Heisman” after I offered to share the details of my most recent meal with her so that she could enthusiastically remind her daughter to be “softball ready” in the outfield over and over again.

When my last and youngest starts playing tackle football in a few years, I am hopeful things will be different. If I had to choose one sport to tolerate for the rest of my life, it would have to be football. I’m sure this has something to do with the glorious food of football (e.g., chili, wings, nachos…what’s not to love?) but over the years I have come to understand it much more than any other sport and therefore should be able to pay better attention. Except if it’s cold. Then the only thing I will be able to think about will be those things that keep me warm in winter, like pot roast, sausage lentil soup, and beef stew. Oh well. Maybe I’ll just help at the snack stand.

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I need a break, fast

The other night after I went to floor, I experienced mild panic knowing that come morning, I was going to be bombarded by three hungry children without any means to feed them since we had just spent two consecutive days snowed in, eating everything we could get our hands on. There was seriously nothing left, except maybe for some white rice, ketchup, and leftover broccoli.

As I feared, I woke to one child standing over me demanding that I get up and make breakfast. Thankfully, I was able to find some frozen pastries for him hidden deep within the freezer. Another child refused to suffer a sub-par breakfast and instructed me to immediately go to the store for organic strawberry toaster pops. Still another child wanted me to go to the store for chocolate hazelnut spread imported from Italy.

I wanted to tell these extremely demanding children that they should not expect me to cater to their every whim and that white rice, ketchup and leftover broccoli does not only make an appropriate but surprisingly delicious breakfast for many children all over the world. But, I didn’t. I went to the store, even though I hadn’t brushed my teeth and my boobs weren’t being supported in any real way. I was, however, wearing yoga pants and not pajama pants, so as far as I was concerned, I was winning.

Halfway to the store, I realized I wasn’t winning but losing because I would actually have to visit two stores, since Stop and Shop doesn’t carry strawberry toaster pops and Whole Foods doesn’t carry Nutella. Would other Moms do this? Probably not. Other Moms would never find themselves at two grocery stores at 8am on a Friday in a bra meant for sleeping because they are better able to manage their inventory and would never run out of everything in two days. Still other Moms would have had their children up and dressed early so that they could all enjoy a lovely breakfast out, smiling and laughing together at the local diner. I aspire to be one of those mothers, but I’m afraid I will never get there.

Anyway, I returned home and prepared everyone’s special breakfasts by request. They were kind and appreciative, until I revealed I would be packing them white rice, ketchup, and leftover broccoli for lunch–then they got all demanding again. Can you imagine? With that, I announced that I needed a break (fast), and I locked myself in the bathroom, but not until I grabbed a pen and paper to make a proper grocery list once and for all.

 

My First Bolognese

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I am so honored to be part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge, which was created by Genie De Wit at Bunny Eats Design to connect bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month the event is hosted by food blogger Francesca at Fearless Kitchen. Hope you enjoy!

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I have a friend named Josephine who is eight feet tall and weighs 100 pounds. She is beautiful. The first thing you notice about her is her hair. It is long and lush and reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I’d hide. It’s also super curly but never has any frizz. It’s the hair I’ve always wanted but can’t have no matter how many products, specialized cuts or styling techniques I try.

The second thing you notice about her is how nice and sweet she is, and how totally unfazed she is by motherhood. I wish I could be half as carefree with my children as she seems.

Josephine is also 100% Italian. She speaks fluent Italian and vacations in Italy every year. To compare, I am part Italian, can say “parmigiano reggiano” with a killer Italian accent, and really enjoyed our recent getaway to Myrtle Beach.

Josephine’s husband, Loreto, is also 100% Italian and serves on our town’s Little League board along with my husband, who does not have any Italian blood whatsoever. Loreto recently invited all of the board members to his home for a meeting and “traditional Sunday gravy” made by his wife.

My husband was pretty psyched when he got the email, but that was nothing once he started eating. He began texting me.

“OMG the Sunday gravy is amazing :)”

Now, I’d like to point out that over the course of our 13 year marriage, I can count the number of times I have served my husband jarred tomato sauce on one hand. Because I am part Italian, I know how important it is to make homemade sauce, and years ago I was lucky enough to secure the recipe of Grandma Marionni, my friend’s Italian grandmother-in-law, and have made it so many times I now have it memorized. I have used it over and over again in countless lasagnas, baked zitis, and chicken parms. My husband is not deprived of authentic Italian cooking at all, so I guess I was a little surprised he was so impressed by Josephine’s gravy. But, whatever, I was just glad I didn’t have to cook for him that night, and also — how nice was it of her to cook for the entire Little League board? And right after the holidays???

Moments later, my husband sent me another text:

“Meatballs.”

Oh brother. Years ago, in a move to make us healthier, I started making meatballs from ground turkey. They are awesome, but my husband doesn’t agree. In his world, meatballs should be made of meat. From this one word text, it was clear to me that Josephine’s meatballs weren’t made of turkey.

Here were his other texts, one after another:

“Montepulciano wine.”

“Fresh grated pecorino cheese.”

“The gravy is really thick.”

“Josephine made it.”

Good grief. Ok, that does it. Right then and there, I resolved to make my non-Italian husband a real Sunday gravy with real meatballs. I consulted my Sopranos Family Cookbook and learned that I would have to obtain a meaty pork neck bone and run a can of peeled tomatoes through a food mill. Forget it.

My second idea was to make an authentic bolognese. I have never made one before. I mean, sometimes I will quickly cook a pound of ground turkey and add it to Grandma Marionni’s sauce right before the pasta is done and pretend it’s bolognese, but I know it’s not. A true bolognese is something I’ve always wanted to make, but never had a reason. Until now.

I contacted Grandma Marionni’s granddaughter-in-law for advice and she told me that Lidia Bastianich’s recipe was the best and that I was to not, under any circumstances, make the one from Giada.

Lidia’s recipe, entitled “Sugo alla Bolognese,” has 13 ingredients and takes three hours, but at least I don’t have to see or touch a pig’s meaty neck bone. I was pumped, so I purchased my ingredients and got to work:

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Step One: Saute the vegetables in olive oil.

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Step Two: Add beef and pork.

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Step Three: Add wine.

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Step Four: Add tomatoes and bay leaves.

IMG_3762Step Five: Cook for three hours, adding water every now and then so that the meat is always covered.

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Step Six: Mangia!

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Step Seven: Receive just as many compliments from my husband as Josephine, including my favorite, “This is restaurant quality.” I personally felt it needed more salt (Lidia doesn’t give exact amounts of salt; she says to salt things “lightly,” but her idea of “lightly” and my idea of “lightly” are, I think, two different things). Nevertheless, my husband didn’t seem to mind. I think he just loves to eat. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.