The luxury comes when:
A. Someone else does the cooking.
B. There are lots of leftovers for lunch.
C. Eau de garlic wafts pleasantly through the house for a couple of days.
On Sunday Best Beloved decided it was time to whip up a batch of his legendary homemade spaghetti sauce. Never mind that it was approaching 90 degrees outside. Never mind that we have been trying to slim down for bathing suit season. Never mind that it would take practically an entire morning of his time. It was a super idea.
He lined up the big cans of whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, and a small can of tomato paste. He assembled the garlic, the garlic press, the can opener, the caldron of a pot, the breadcrumbs, the parsley, the links of Italian sausage and the pound of ground beef. Humming and listening to The Girl from Ipanema, he moved with purpose around our small kitchen, browning sausage, rolling meatballs, crushing garlic, scissoring parsley. He tinkered and measured and rolled and snipped and browned and boiled.
I observed these deliberate and intricate dance steps as I wandered by from time to time, coming through once to drink some Diet Coke, another time to put freshly laundered napkins in the drawer. And then I retired to the studio to catch up on some work, hearing snatches of songs and sizzling meat while I painted. It was nice to have someone in the kitchen, methodically preparing an ancestral recipe for us to share. Most nights I am worn to a frazzle and although I talk a good thing about preparing sophisticated, leisurely, candle-lit meals, more often the truth is that I am scrambling around in a panic at six o’clock, wondering how many times we have had chicken this week, and can that boneless breast possible thaw itself in an hour?
Last Sunday night we enjoyed a lovely, leisurely, romantic candle-lit dinner – in the dining room. We dined on spaghetti, garlic bread and salad, and a modest wine that winked with insouciance. We were stuffed to the gills. But here is where the luxury starts: there were leftovers. I muscled the Nebuchadnezzar-sized pot of sauce into the fridge, after it had cooled down and the Tony awards had just danced off the Radio City stage. There was a small Saran-wrapped bowl of leftover spaghetti, which I had for lunch on Monday. (I did walk Luke for 3 miles on Monday, so I think it balanced out.) Tuesday I heated the vat o’sauce up again, and we had it ladled over shallow bowls of penne pasta. Wednesday lunch brought me another plastic-wrapped bowl of leftovers, and also another 3 miles trotting along after the dog. There was still some penne left for my Thursday lunch. What a change from my usual cold turkey sandwich, gnawed while I stand at the kitchen counter, moodily thumbing through the newspaper, embracing the loneliness of a freelancer. Just the dog and me. Sigh.
It was a relief when the children were little to have a routine: Monday nights were mac and cheese, Tuesdays were chicken fingers, Wednesdays were some variation of Mexican foods. (My mind, being a delicate and mercurial entity these days, stubbornly refuses to remember exactly all the culinary trials I put the children through those weeks. Remember, I also faked them out for years using spinach on their tacos…) Friday night was always pizza night, and now,mainly, it still is. I have managed to plan far enough ahead this week that there is a ball of dough waiting to be thawed this afternoon. It will rise in a great ceramic bowl, out on the table on the back porch. I even have the stick of pepperoni to slice and a block of mozzarella to grate. The basil farm out back is ready to yield its weekly harvest. The swirled homemade sauce, concocted with love and Getz and Gilberto, will be the crowning glory on the semi-circular amoeba of a pie that will emerge from the oven tonight. It will be the best pizza we have had in a long time.
And there will be leftovers for lunch on Saturday. Bliss!
Our friends at Food52 have a very well-liked meatball recipe. I haven’t been able to veal for years, though I imagine I could substitute a little more ground beef instead. Or do I have the audacity to show it to Best Beloved, who has perfected his own manna from heaven? I think not…
Epicurious has a meat sauce recipe, which looks a wee bit spicy to me.
Ready for summer, here is an adaptation of an Alice Waters’ recipe for pasta with tomato sauce:
“I think the most joyous thing in life is to loaf around and watch another bloke do a job of work. Look how popular are the men who dig up London with electric drills. Duke’s son, cook’s son, son of a hundred kings, people will stand there for hours on end, ear drums splitting. Why? Simply for the pleasure of being idle while watching other people work.”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Five Red Herrings