Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day and Mama Rose's Meatballs

Today we celebrate Mothers Day.  Mother’s Day has different meanings for all of us—as I think back on my mom, a Navy wife, who moved us every two years, I’m grateful that she kept it all together for us.  She didn’t do everything right, and neither did we, but she did get us from one place to another, and her kids probably weren’t as grateful as we could have been, but she did the best she could, given limited funds, and an absent husband. 

I meet moms all the time in my classes, and in my daily life.  We all struggle with how we have raised, or are raising our kids.  We don’t get instruction booklets when kids are born, we do the best we can, and we go with our gut instincts most of the time. Since I’ve been in Italy, I have watched mothers with their kids, and no matter what the culture, we all struggle with the same things: discipline, love, saying I’m sorry, being angry, and being sad. 

When my kids were little we would go out for the requisite mother’s day brunch, and no one was happy—my kids, who didn’t like to get dressed up for anything sat there uncomfortable for 2 hours, while someone else served me.  I finally had the light bulb go on over my head, and decided that for Mother’s Day I wanted to go to the happiest place on earth—and so for many years we would head to Disneyland for the day.  No one had to get dressed up, no one can be sad at Disneyland, and the surroundings made us all very happy.  

These are the happy faces I love to look at in photo albums
Which brings me to Mama Rose.  I met Mama Rose two years ago here at Enoteca Prozerio.  She is the mother of my friend Grace, and we talked food for 2 1/2 hours in the garden here.  She is amazing--still cooks for herself, drives a hot new Volvo and loves her family.  We have kept in touch through phone calls and letters since then. 
Early one evening, as I was chatting with a couple from Chicago, when Rose, her daughter and son-in-law came up the street---I had not realized they would be here for dinner and I was delighted.  We made a date for me to learn how to make her meatballs and sauce, and so Wednesday I cut school and headed to Todi.  After a quick cappucino at the bar in Izzalini, we headed to the villa and proceeded to make meatballs and sauce alla Mama Rose.  
We had 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, about 4 slices bread that had the crusts removed and were soaked in bread, about 1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano, 4 cloves of garlic mixed, about 1/4 cup minced parsley, salt and pepper.  We added one egg, she began to mix with her hands, and said "needs another"---like most Italian (or good cooks) she goes by feel, rather than a recipe.  When she had shaped the meatballs (we had about 16 two-inch meatballs) She dusts them in flour, and dusts them again before frying in vegetable oil.  This gives them a great crust. 
The sauce is simplicity itself; saute 1 small onion with 6 gloves garlic over very low heat.  Once the garlic and onion have sweated, then add two large cans Cirio brand tomatoes, a handful of parlsey and some chopped basil, along with salt and pepper.  As the sauce comes to a boil, add the fried meatballs and cook, (as she said) until done---about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  I have no photos of the meat, because I scarfed it down so fast, but it was stupendo as they say here.  We served it with enormous rigatoni, some sauteed Swiss chard from the garden and fresh mozzarella.  What a meal! Great conversation, and amazing food, made with love and simple ingredients. 

I have threatened to kidnap Mama Rose from Grace and her husband Michael.  I miss my mom, miss talking about food, and her childhood in Old Forge, PA and in Bayonne, NJ.  Rose pulls no punches, and states her opinion---she's great---I love her wisdom and I love her, so Rose, Happy Mother's Day wishing you a day filled with love and laughter in the company of those you love.   And, thank you to Michael and Grace for sharing her this week.

Grace and her mom Rose
To all the mothers out there, wishing you a day filled with sunshine, and your family--and to all you kids out there, call your Mom!

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