Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spaghetti Done the Right Way

I have a funny story today that involves one of my favorite dishes--homemade spaghetti.

I was sitting here working on a book cover for one of my friends, and chomping down on a nice, hot bowl of homemade spaghetti, and it reminded me of my mother's recipe for making spaghetti sauce that I found soon after she died.

Mother was known for her spaghetti. I could never duplicate it. Even after I found a shopping list she had written which included all the ingredients she had put in her spaghetti, I still could never get it to taste the same.

I just chalked it up to her having the right touch.

Of course, I did leave out the mushrooms because they remind me of snail meat. Not that I've had snail meat, but I guess it's just a visual hang-up of mine. The very thought of biting down on snail meat sent my stomach into convulsions.

Well, one day I was telling this story to someone about how I hated mushrooms and when I made spaghetti, I would always leave them out. "I like the taste it gives to spaghetti," I told them, "but I hate the mushroom itself."

And, then it dawned on me. This was the reason my spaghetti didn't taste like my mother's...those damn mushrooms.

So, I did an experiment. I added the mushrooms, but was very careful to add large ones so that I could see them to pick them out. Heaven forbid I confuse them with a green pepper.

Well, when I took my first bite, it took me back to when my mother was alive, and we'd all be sitting at the table stuffing our faces with it. I can't even put into words how good her spaghetti was.

I remember one time I was having my boyfriend over for dinner. "I'm making spaghetti," my mother told me, "because I want him to know how great a cook your mother is."

Perfect! That was her best dish...surely I'd get some brownie points in the love department.

Well, my boyfriend arrived and I introduced him to my mother, step-father and sister, and we sat down to enjoy our meal. I was in heaven...everyone really liked each other and as this particular boyfriend I really wanted to marry me (which he did later), I felt that this was going GREAT.

However, when I took my first bite of spaghetti, I knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong. The spaghetti was squishy, instead of chewy, and I wanted to die. Here was my mother's perfect getting-your-boyfriend-to-marry-you meal, and it tasted like mush.

I didn't know what to do. Surely, everyone realized it, but sat there, slowly eating. As it turned out, my boyfriend admitted to hating spaghetti, so this must have been pure torture.

He ended up marrying me, but not for my mother's or my culinary talents. Remind me to tell you about the Hamburger Helper dinner that my German Shephard, Baron, wouldn't even eat.

So, I sit here, eating my spaghetti, carefully picking out the mushrooms, thinking about Mother and how she so wanted to impress my boyfriend. She told me later that the spaghetti noodles had sat too long in the water, waiting for him to arrive. Ack.

But it goes to show you how one little ingredient, even one you despise, makes all the difference in the world in a recipe. Not that I'm an expert, but it made me realize that even if something looks like the grossest thing in the world, it could turn out to make the biggest difference.

Now on to the snail meat....


  1. If you want something really gross I could send you a can of slugs. We bought one just for a conversation thing a few years ago but so far no one has wanted to open & eat it.

  2. LOL, you can leave that at your house, Dick! ;o)

  3. I love this! I had the same experience with my mom's spaghetti. I worked in professional kitchens for crying out loud! Still could not get it right. Still can't. I like to think it's the love she puts in it when she makes it. That and her lasagne. Nothing like it. Especially the next day.

    Please feel free to check out my blog, and click on the "sexiest pasta ever" for another great one that my kids will one day be trying to figure out. (plus I could use the hit. New to blogging.


    Politics, food and theatre all all a little left of center.

  4. Thanks for this memory laden makes me stop and remember many things that are 'dear' to me! Just goes to show us that somethings we like to leave out are really a key ingredient...and this can apply to our lifes as well!!

  5. You're craving the mountains and I'm embracing my love for the beach. I changed my blog skin and am redesigning my web site with that theme, too.

    I hope you get to fulfull your dream of living in the mountains. And now I must have a plate of spaghetti. Yum, yum!!

  6. That's a great spaghetti story. I love mushrooms, but I'm going to be thinking "snail meat" next time I eat one. LOL.

    I'm in the VA mountains and longing for a beach house. How ironic.

  7. That's a really wonderful story. I'm fascinated by how much "family memories" can be tangled up with "food stories" -- in a good way.

    Next time I make spaghetti you can be sure I'll throw in some mushrooms to try this out (hoping to impress the now-husband, who fortunately wasn't scared off by the first disastrous meet-the-parents dinner in my case, either!)


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