Transplanted from eastern Kentucky to Detroit’s Yacama Street the summer of 1954, I scented something like Mom’s canned tomatoes.
“What’s that smell coming from the neighbor’s house?” I asked Mom.
“Why, that’s Italian spaghetti sauce.”
“Does it taste like your stewed tomatoes?”
“Yes, but spicier.”
I didn’t know what “spicier” meant, but if spaghetti sauce tasted as good as Mom’s stewed tomatoes with elbow macaroni, I’d be happy to try it.
“Will you cook us spaghetti?” I asked.
Mom frowned. “Your dad won’t eat it.”
A child never forgets such puzzling conversations with grownups. Eventually, I learned the Italian, German, Polish, and Appalachian people on our block wouldn’t eat each other’s food.
But God is good and grants children the desire of their hearts. The fall of my ninth year, another spaghetti lesson occurred after my family moved to Wagner Street in Warren.
Our elementary school posted the cafeteria’s lunch menu for the week on a wall outside the principal’s office. The word “spaghetti” appeared with the white letters on the black sign. I concentrated to phonetically decipher the “gh” in the word.
Nonetheless, I laughed with everybody else when the boys in my third grade class jumped up and shouted, “Spaghetti! Spaghetti!”
Since Mom packed our lunches with bologna and mustard sandwiches, my sisters and I never ate the cafeteria’s food.
Several years later, Mom befriended Rose Mikla, an Italian neighbor who married an Italian. Rose, a beautician, cooked spaghetti for her five sons and husband.
Mom, an Appalachian who married an Appalachian, fried chicken and breaded pork chops, and baked pot roasts for her five daughters and husband, an Irish barber.
Once a week, Mom walked to Rose’s house for her new hairdo. Spaghetti sauce simmered on Rose’s stove while she washed, set, dried, and styled Mom’s hair.
On Dad’s bowling night, Mom spooned her spaghetti sauce over boiled long, thin noodles. We laughed when our baby sister sucked up the noodles into her mouth, splattering her chubby cheeks with red sauce.
We looked forward to Dad’s bowling night.
The summer of 1970, my father-in-law helped my husband and I move our few earthly possessions from our first apartment to Mom’s house. I smelled her spaghetti sauce before I saw it.
After his second plate, Mr. Underwood said, “Thank you, Sadie, for the delicious meal.”
Several months later, a neighbor in our new apartment building introduced me to garlic’s versatility. Mom’s lack of enthusiasm to my discovery at last revealed she loathed the spice.
But I’d learned this too late.
When my father showed up hungry on my doorstep one February day in 1995, I served him what I had – a hot plate of pasta with Bolognese sauce seasoned with onion, garlic, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.
Dear Reader, Dad thanked me and spoke of his forthcoming heart surgery. Several days later, my sisters and I tearfully said our last goodbye to our father.
We never know what meal will be our last. Thank God, the cook, and eat what we don’t like.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.