Monday, August 31, 2009

On Top of Spaghetti

I was six. It was my turn to be "student of the week" in Miss Richter's kindergarten classroom. Other kids brought pets and toys and rock collections to show who they were. I brought spaghetti and meatballs.

I spent hours kneeling on a yellow and green vinyl-covered chair at the counter in my grandpa's kitchen mixing and rolling, preparing the perfect feast (to be served with cartons of white and chocolate milk) for my friends.

It wasn't a special kitchen or a fancy kitchen (or a clean kitchen). In fact, it was a dark place, with orange carpeted floors and metal cabinets.

It was a simple place where the pink Styrofoam trays from meat doubled as plates for snack time.

It was a place where an aluminum pot that now makes me think of a Clydesdale (shiny but functional) reliably simmered on the back burner of the orange gas stove.

In all of my best memories of my grandpa he is standing in front of this stove in a white sleeveless t-shirt snug around his round belly (including a polka dots trail of spaghetti sauce down the front) and tucked into black pants, using one hand to stir the sauce and the other hand to push his thick-framed black glasses up his nose.

It was in this same kitchen with this same grandpa that I cooked spaghetti and meatballs for 20 of my closest five-year-old friends. Spaghetti and meatballs is the part of myself I wanted to share with my classmates because it reminded me of family and warmth and love and happiness - all of the things I wanted to share with others.

That's why I'm cooking, eating, and repeating. I will cook one new recipe each week. Because I can't actually share the food with you - well, not with most of you, anyway - I will share the recipe, the story, and some pictures here.

Speaking of recipes and pictures - I don't have the recipe for my grandpa's meatballs or any pictures of his kitchen. I didn't even realize that was the story I wanted to tell you today. I started with pictures of my kitchen and cookbooks and recipes in my grandmother's handwriting. Those are all food stories for another time. Tonight it turned out to be about spaghetti and meatballs.

Here's to a year of sharing.