This morning I carried on a ritual that has been passed down in my family for (at least) three generations. Before I ate breakfast, or even made coffee I smashed some garlic and opened several cans of tomato paste. This is the SanGeorge Sunday tomato sauce ritual. According to my dad, his father made a big pot of sauce every Sunday and he learned how to make it by watching his father make it. I assume that this tradition was carried over from Italy when my great-grandfather came to the United States one hundred years ago.
This may be the last time I make sauce this winter. Sauce season coincides almost directly with football season, the two are linked in my mind, as is the phrase, "somebody stir the sauce!", repeated every 20 minutes throughout the 6-8 hour duration of cooking time. I remember when I was little my dad would start the sauce and the meatballs around 8am. He would bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook while we went to church. When we returned home the house would be full of the rich aroma of tomatoes, tantalizing us. But, we would have to wait another three or four hours until the sauce "turned", or matured to have the full rich flavor that makes it so good. My dad would have two spoons on the stove next to the pot; one for stirring and one for tasting. When my father was engrossed in the Buffalo Bills game on the TV, I would often use the latter spoon to sneak a meatball, sometimes having to shove the whole (and very hot) thing in my mouth to avoid detection.
Sadly now my father can no longer eat the sauce that he loved to make. Being a survivor of throat cancer, with radiation and multiple surgeries, he hasn't been able to eat solid food for some time. Recently the doctors have told him that he is to have "nothing by mouth". All of his nutrition is fed through a tube in his stomach, mostly while he sleeps. So when I sometimes get frustrated about not being able to eat things because of gluten, I contrast it to my father who can't eat anything at all. So what if I can't eat semolina pasta, rice pasta isn't that bad. So what if I can't eat doughnuts or pizza, there are hundreds (or thousands) of foods and flavors that I can eat. It's times like this that I remember that life really is good without gluten!
This meatball's for you dad.
Oh, what? You want the recipe for the sauce? Sorry, but there are some things that even I have to keep secret! I will suggest a great Italian dish for a cold day; try my Chicken Cacciatore recipe, I made this last week and it's hard to go wrong with it.