Monday, August 8, 2022

Garfield would be disappointed

I like a good writing prompt and it has been a while since I participated in Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World-Famous Workshop

 For a period, I was doing a ton of writing
 And then I stopped

There were all kinds of reasons/excuses:
We were selling/buying a house and then moving and then unpacking
and work was busy
and 5th grade was kicking Lucy’s ass
and then COVID hit
and I lost my job
and Lucy started 6th  grade
and I got a new job
and hated it so I quit
and I got another new job which I love
and it keeps me super busy
and Lucy started 7th grade
and work got even busier
and Lucy turned 13
and then I started traveling for work 
and then I went to Texas for a graduation
and I then I got COVID
and it was quarter end
and now I’m tuning 50

So I have decided I need to make time for what make me happy and brings me joy: writing
To jump start, I turned to Mama Kat because her prompts are the best and I like her writing
 Also, she has some pretty faithful followers, and I was just catching up on their writings and forgot how much I enjoyed dipping my toes in  their worlds
So here I am
Her prompts this week include:

1. Write about a meal you never looked forward to eating when you were growing up.
2. Write a blog post inspired by the word: hot
3. Share a back-to-school memory.
4. Share something you learned in July.
5. Tell us about something you are looking forward to in August.
It is always hard to choose because when I read the options, I feel like I could immediately write to any one of them

So, to make it easy on myself, and to slow my brain down a bit, I’m going to start right at the top:
1.      Write about a meal you never looked forward to eating when you were growing up

When I was a kid, my mother made homemade pizzas
Dough from scratch stretched out on the jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with edges)
Two pans actually - there were after all 7 kids and there also always seemed to be extra people at the house on the nights Mum made pizza
The sauce was homemade too
If I timed it right, I could help with laying the toppings over the dough and sauce
And those pizzas were delicious
The corners were the best and we typically fought over them – Dad always won
I haven’t had her pizza in years
It’s one of those things I should have her teach me to make but I always forget to ask
Mum also made the best spaghetti and meatballs with sauce
I know there is nothing special about spaghetti and meatballs but somehow, Mum’s tasted better than everyone else’s
Again, everything was made from scratch, and everything was in big batches
The sauce would simmer for hours filling the house with the smell of tomatoes, basil, parsley, and oregano
It’s a quick and simple sauce but it is so good it warrants dipping your bread into the pot whilst it’s still simmering just to test it and make sure the flavor is on point
That flavor was, and is, always on point
The meatballs were cooked prior to being dropped into the sauce to marinate before it was all plated and served
Mum’s meatballs were small (again, with 7 kids, everything had to be stretched) but they were exploded with flavor and love in your mouth
And though I know it’s not really a meal, on Sunday morning, Mum would often make donut balls
The dough was from scratch, and she would scoop it out of the mixing bowl with a big spoon, shape it with a second spoon and plop it into the fat to be fried to a crisp golden brown
When the donut balls bobbed to the surface, she would carefully fish them out and drop them onto a brown paper bag that had been cut down the sides and spread out on the counter to soak up the grease 
Before those donut balls cooled too much though, they were given only a moment’s rest, they’d get shoveled  into a plastic Ziploc bag filled with sugar and cinnamon and tossed around for a minute to give them a nice coating before they were served up still warm and crispy
The best was when you bit into it and a little puff of steam would escape while the sugar melted on your tongue and the donut ball was just crispy enough to make a little crunch as you chewed it to pull out all the flavor
At most it was a two-bite donut ball, but those warm bites were sweet and savory at the same time
And by the time it hit your belly, it was just pure deliciousness
And Mum’s cookies/sweets  at Christmas are legendary: gingersnaps, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter squares, her fudge……yum
Her chocolate cheesecake and Bundt cakes aren’t half bad either
Who are we kidding, I’ve swiped my finger across my plate after eating her chocolate cheesecake to make sure I got it all
Mum also makes the best tuna fish and egg salad (still, to this day)
Hell, she even makes deviled ham taste good
But there was one meal my mother made when I was growing up that I absolutely detested, dreaded, hated when I knew it was in the rotation
I don’t know if it was the taste, the texture, the way it looked on my plate, but I just could not stand it
Everyone else loved it and it was always finished in one meal
When she makes it at Christmas or a family gathering, there is rarely a morsel left
To this day, if it is placed in front of me, regardless of the variation of the recipe or who made it, my throat closes a little and my stomach flips
If I have a choice, I will not put any on my plate
But when we were kids, there were no choices
I ate it because it was what was for dinner
I’d choke down every bite and never asked for seconds
Interestingly enough, I loved helping Mum make it
And by helping, I mean watching her make it and passing her something when she needed it
I was intrigued with all the steps that had to be taken just to prep everything
Then came the actual construction of the dish which was like watching a masterpiece being painted or a building constructed
Mum went slowly with a precise gentle hand so as not to break any of the ingredients
And if there were an imperfection in one of the layers, she would expertly cover it, so no one knew there was a broken piece
When she was done, it was like a work of art
She used a glass baking dish so you could see all the colors:
the deep red of the sauce,
the stark white of the cheese dotted with herbs
the noodles with their pale complexion making them look weak but they were actually the strengthening layer of the dish
All those colors and layers and textures were slid it into the oven to meld together for 45 minutes
Within minutes of hitting the heated oven, the smells were enough to make your mouth water and your tummy rumble with anticipation
When Mum opened the oven to pull it out, the first thing that hit you was the gorgeous velvety smell of cooked cheese and warm sauce melding into each other
Then you heard the bubbling of the cheese
And once you waved off the steam, you could see the cheese on topped was now a golden brown
All my favorite ingredients lovingly, precisely, pulled together in the same dish: noodles, Mum’s homemade sauce, ooey gooey cheese and more cheese
But when they were all put together like that, I dreaded, absolutely dreaded, lasagna
Maybe it’s the layers -  I’m not of layered dip either
Maybe I just don’t like the combination of cheese and sauce and noodles like that
Maybe it's because when I tried to scoop up a bite with my fork, it fell apart and just looked like a big sloppy mess
Whatever the reason, I just could not stand lasagna for dinner... not then, not now, not ever 

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