Capturing Memories of Yesterday

In my last blog, I was ranting about making spaghetti sauce.  I hadn’t made it in awhile, and it was long overdue.  I was making it because we had friends over Saturday night.  Our friend Amy was bringing by the flash drive with the photos she took of Dante’ for senior pictures – session #1.  You can read about that emotional day here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/07/14/emotional-day/

Session #2 will happen as fall arrives, and we’re already mapping out the details of that.  I’m especially excited for that session as there will be a few locations that hold very special memories for both Dante’ and me.

Dinner

Amy, her husband Matt, her daughter (and Sam’s Goddaughter) Skyler, and her boyfriend “Po” were our guests for dinner.  I worked Friday on the sauce, tweaking a few things here and there.  I used that sauce for baked ravioli.  I make a big pot of sauce and throw whatever I am not using in jars and freeze it for future use.  I made sure to leave an extra jar out, because sometimes those ravioli will “soak up the sauce” in the oven.

Any time I make sauce, I am extra critical of it.  I took a leap of faith and tried something I had never done before.  There was no going back – this was the sauce that was going in the ravioli!  Personally, I could tell the difference in this batch.  I pressed the garlic instead of just chopping it up and putting it in (so it tasted less “garlicky”).  I also felt that it could have been a little sweeter (maybe not enough wine or sugar).

When every one arrived, I was nervous.  The sauce was good – but I was still running through the things I noticed in my mind.  I shouldn’t have been nervous at all!  They all loved it!  Skyler said that she could “drink it with a straw” it was so good.  In a Facebook post, Amy said: “As we took the first bite, it was clearly evident that the sauce is the BEST we have all ever tasted!”  She went on to write, “Well done, Chef Keith.  We could “taste” the passion, heart and soul you poured into our meal. You’ll find us all at the front of the line to purchase that sauce when you bottle it!”

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What an amazing thing to read!  I felt like I was reading an review for a 5-star restaurant! I am humbled and thankful that the meal was enjoyed by every one!  I made sure to send home a jar with them for future enjoyment (No label.  No charge!)

The Pictures

If you took the time to follow the link above, you are aware at how emotional I was the day that the pictures were taken (and I wasn’t even there for the whole day).  The weather that day was far from ideal.  It was 90 degrees, humidity was high, plenty of sun, and many of the pictures were taken during the hottest part of the day.  The fact that Dante’ made it as long as he did was a “win” in itself!  It was obvious by the time I arrived for the second half of the session that he was only good for a little while longer.

I was not with them while they snapped pictures by classic cars at a car show.  I was neat to see which cars Dante’ chose to pose by.  As we looked through the photos together, he rattled off the year, make and model of each car.  There were some taken at the park which were very nice.  I could tell which pictures were taken later.  Dante’ has a habit of messing up his hair, when he gets hot, so there were a couple shots I laughed at and asked him, “were you hot?”

We went to the park right around the corner from our house and snapped a few more pictures.  There were some that we took of him standing on this little bridge.  He is just kind of lost in thought, and those really stuck with me.  He’s always thinking.  He asks a lot of questions.  He is always looking stuff up on the internet and likes to share the “facts” and “figures” he learns about with others.  I’m not sure why those photos in particular stuck out to me.

I could post many shots here, but then again, I don’t want to share them all, so I am going to share just a couple of my favorites.

First, after the park, we came home and the boys gamed a bit.  We brought the boys out to the porch and she caught some shots of them just talking.  There is a great pic of the two of them clinking their glass and iced tea bottle together like they are making a toast or something.  One of my favorite shots, though is one of them laughing.  My boy’s laughter fills my heart.  I love when I can make them laugh.  I think I was doing some silly impression of a radio guy I worked with, which made them laugh out loud.  Check out this great shot:

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A day without laughter  – is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Dante’ is ALL about gaming!  He has a handful of games that he loves (on various gaming systems).  He has some very good friends who also love to game.  When these guys get together, the noise level doubles or triples!  LOL!  They are SO into the game!  Usually, they are playing a game called Super Smash Brothers (which I SUCK at!) and they are bouncing and jumping around all over the place (which is fun to watch)!  Skyler made a cool sign and Amy lined up some of his favorite games next to it.  While Dante’ played his game, she caught this amazing shot:

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“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” – Orrin Hatch

Finally, perhaps my favorite picture of all, is referred to in the blog I mentioned above.  Amy told me that she had taken the picture.  I just hadn’t seen it yet.  Skyler had bought a cute “gender friendly” outfit for our future baby.  She had it in a gift bag.  Also inside the gift bag was the picture of Dante’ and me in a frame.  Seeing it, brought about all the emotion of the day, which I held back – because I had to serve up the ravioli!  However, I have looked at it many times since Saturday, and well up with tears almost every time.  As I showed Dante’ the picture, he could hear the crack in my voice and asked again if I am crying.  He thinks it is funny that I am so emotional.  He will have plenty of laughs in the year ahead, because I know that there will be many tears in the months leading to his graduation!  Even though I am dressed like a bum, and my head needs shaving, I will treasure this picture forever:

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“There is no greater bond than the one between a father and a son – strong, unyielding, and everlasting.”

“A father and a son are bonded for life.  Even when a father never says it out loud, the son knows there is love.”

“Often, a father is proud when his son looks or behaves like him. It’s unclear why exactly  fathers are like this, but perhaps it’s a sign that they know they have done well raising their sons.”

“Sons always identify their fathers as their greatest heroes, while fathers always look at their sons as their greatest accomplishment.”

In her Facebook post, Amy said, “When I am entrusted to capture “A Memory of Yesterday” for some one to cherish for years to come, I pour my heart and soul into capturing the essence of who my subjects are.”

I would say that she did that perfectly.

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Getting Saucy … sort of

Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets.  I’ve had a few….” One regret I have is waiting too long to ask my grandmother for recipes.  By the time I thought to do this, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia had begun to overcome her and it was too late.

It is not like we never tried to ask, because we did.  Our questions were often responded to with vague or generic answers.  The only thing I can duplicate pretty accurately, is my grandma’s breaded steak.  I can do this, because I watched her do it once.  It’s not hard.  You take the steak, dip it in olive oil, dip it in Italian bread crumbs and broil it.  Simple, right!?  She once walked me through how she made her chicken and gravy, but I have long forgotten how.

The one thing I have been trying to duplicate for years is her spaghetti sauce.  I have come close – very close – but it’s just not right, yet.  I have asked friends, and some family, and have tried to incorporate things in hopes that it would be “THE” missing ingredient….without any luck.  Granted, some of the suggestions have brought me closer, and each time I try something new, I am afraid I may mess it up more.

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One thing I DO know, is that grandma used sugar in her sauce.  I am told it is a Sicilian thing.  Whether or not to use sugar in your sauce is a heated topic among Italians.  Some people find it utterly disgusting.  Personally, I love a sauce that is a bit sweet.  I also know she used a lot of garlic.  She always used basil (“You have to use good, fresh basil!”) and a bay leaf.  Never oregano – she (and many Italian grandmas) used to say that you only used oregano for pizza sauce.

I also know that she always used Contadina products!

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I remember she had a pantry down in her basement that had literally HUNDREDS of cans of Contadina tomato sauce and tomato paste!  (We used to call her pantry Kroger because she also had rows of dish soap, canned vegetables, and other things down there.) When I first attempted to make the sauce, I knew I had to start with this.

I used my friend Christina’s grandma’s recipe as a basic guide.  I have expanded on it since my first attempt.  A cousin said that her grandma used to put a stick of butter in her pot of sauce.  Another cousin (and my aunt) both suggested a Bechamel sauce be added to thicken the sauce, which it did.  I thought my grandma used a little wine, so I tried that, too.

I have used ground beef, ground sausage, ground pork, and stewing beef in the sauce to see if that makes a difference.  To a degree it does, but I know grandma used to cook all of those in her sauce at times.  I have tried more seasoning and less seasoning, bullion cubes instead of salt, and white wine and red wine, but still come up short.

My radio buddy, Jim Bosh, is Italian and he has hosted dinner parties for holidays and such in the past.  His sauce (and meatballs) are about as close as I have tasted to my grandmas.  I can’t remember if I ever sat down with him and discussed making the sauce at length, but I know he has offered a suggestion or two.  I also remember him telling me that no matter how many times I try to make grandma’s sauce, there will always be one important thing missing – Grandma.

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