My son is going off to a graduate program in Boston on Tuesday. As a goodbye feast, everyone wanted Papa’s Sauce (and all the delicious, acid-rich trimmings: wine, pasta, cheese, cheese, and more cheese, bread, bread, and more bread, sugary desserts. It was the beloved recipe my father concocted for the purposes of having the kind of food grew up with in Rome and New York City, while we lived in the Italian- food- exile of Asheville, NC in the 60s. He had to become a cook to eat the foods he loved. He did not count chain pizza joints as Italian food. After he mastered the basic sauce recipe, his cooking became more and more elaborate and invitations to dinner were prized by all who knew him.
These were the times when my family was at its best. Oh, the closeness, the joy in great food, the sweetness, mood alteration, and camaraderie these delicacies engendered. The passing on of traditional ways of cooking, the smells, warmth, neighbors reacting to the aroma of our kitchen in the Beaver Lake neighborhood and literally begging for samples–these are the memories we love. These are the memories that come to us every time Papa’s sauce fills the air. And now that he is gone, it is this recipe and ritual that fills us with the memory of him.
Can I do this anymore? After we toasted my son and talked and laughed and exaggerated our own heroics or buffoonery. After the high energy died down and everyone was licking the chocolate mousse out of the dark chocolate shells, I wondered if this was the Swan Song of Papa’s Sauce for me. After all, I don’t eat it because it’s too much acid for me. Hmmmm.
Is the acid opera done? I have paid a bigger price that the rest of my family for the way we eat and I would like to let it go. If they want the sauce, shouldn’t they shop for the ingredients and cook it themselves? I am not the same mama-in-charge of our family’s traditional meals. What if I stop. Will I be exiled from praise, from the sure seduction of attendance at my table with the promise of too rich, too acidic, too delicious and too addictive foods? More hmmmmm.
Will they even come see me any more? And, hell, that could happen.
I do believe that in terms of their overall health, they can afford to occasionally indulge. I cannot. And the planning, shopping, and cooking leave me with mixed emotions and bouts of longing to just have a little. Just this once. Like that ever worked for a food addict like me.
Then there’s the big-dead-bird-in-the-middle-of -the-table holidays too. And I am sooo good at it.
And missing my father’s sweetest gift to us.
And my kids and husband would miss it like love. And love it is. But where do I fit in? The gift I must now give them is that of a wife and mother who will not face the inevitable consequences of eating high-starch, sugar, and meat meals. I will give them a woman who lives life fully and in good health, without a dependent, medicalized future. I will give them a glimpse into a new way of eating. Instead of breadcrumbs, I will leave a trail of sprouted lentils for them to follow if they choose. I will not leave them the false face of love that suggests that I show you how to kill yourself with food to go along.
But you know what?
My son informed me this morning that he would not be taking any of those dishes from the big goodbye feast with him. “No more pasta,” said he. “My head is a mess. Total brain fog. I just can’t eat like that anymore. ” I’ll need my brain up there.
That’s one down, and off the sauce for the moment. Wonder when I can spring my alkaline version of Papa’s sauce on them soon? Papa’s Quick Fresh Pizziole Sauce. Check it out in recipes.
Talk to you later.