by Michelle Holland
“This isn’t spaghetti,” my daughter says loudly to the waiter who is pouring the first taste of a fifty-dollar bottle of wine for our host.
And I have to agree. Take me back
to when I hadn’t discovered
sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil
and angel-hair pasta.
Hadn’t begun to refine my pork roast past,
or stay cool within my nodding circle
of low cholesterol friends.
I’ve learned the best restaurants,
sigh at the price of saffron,
accept only thin buttery lettuce.
Why should I shun the diner’s stout coffee
and mashed potatoes from a box,
and frequent instead the new coffee bar
with raspberry flavour and mocha and Java,
those little brittle Italian breads,
My mom made sauce
red and sweet from cans of Contadina
and spread it out, ladled it out
on thick, straight spaghetti noodles.
Not one of us said, “Pasta.”
She made meatloaf and potatoes,
used garlic salt in plastic shakers,
served fluffy, white bread,
the kind that stuck in wads
to the roof of my mouth.
Big meals in big pots
served over the counter,
fat meatballs, mostly bread.
This was food, quick, filling,
not savored. Our due.
We held up our plates
for mom to fill once more
before we abandoned the table
for the urgent games of dusk,
hide and seek, and pick-up basketball
under the street light.
My daughter knows
the emperor has no clothes,
and for fifteen dollars an entree,
we should recognize the sauce.
The richness of our need,
the effortless nature of eating what could fill,
where is it?
I will listen to my daughter,
join her disdain for spaghetti
that is not spaghetti.
My life is a closed circle
the love of meatballs always on the periphery.
~ from Written With a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay and Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 1996)
You want some now, don’t you? Well, here you go. Help yourself!
This poem got me thinking about how complicated eating has become. We didn’t have “pasta” growing up, just good old spaghetti. Remember when it was either white bread or brown bread, instead of whole grain, multigrain, seven grain, cracked wheat, honey wheat, German dark wheat, oatmeal, fifteen grain, with or without seeds?
Just like designer clothes, there’s designer food. Cool people only eat eggs laid by liberated chickens, drink water bottled in France, and swear by “non-GMO,” “organic,” “grass-fed,” “sustainable,” “100% natural.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all on the side of healthy eating, being kind to the planet, and I know first hand about food allergies. I just wonder about people who go “gluten free” not from necessity, but fad. These days, it’s even hard to invite people over — everyone’s on some kind of “special diet”: lowfat, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, no artificial colors or preservatives, paleo, low carb, low calorie, low (or no) sugar. Sigh.
How I yearn for simpler times! I don’t want to worry about whether what I’m eating is politically correct, nor do I want to pay a fortune for three teensy but artfully arranged slices of tenderloin on a sleek white plate in a fancy restaurant. I don’t want to fall into the “food as status symbol” trap.
Just give me comfort food, plain and simple, preferably prepared by my mother. Her spaghetti rates pretty high on my list. She never used a recipe for her sauce, and it came out a little different each time. But it always tasted so good. After all, the best spice for any dish is love.
Speaking of spaghetti, I do believe it’s the great equalizer. Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, spaghetti always hits the spot and takes you right back. Just ask these folks:
What’s the best spaghetti you’ve ever had? 🙂
The wonderful and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup at Check It Out. Noodle on over to view the complete menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Are you eating spaghetti this weekend? 🙂
Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.