Friday, August 27, 2010

In Praise of the Meal...

Cars and CTA buses abandoned on LSD after the 1967
Snow Storm

I remember JFK's assassination.  I was walking back to school after lunch at home and the 8th grade patrol boy on the corner of Wolcott and Fletcher had a transistor radio and kept telling people that President Kennedy had been shot.  School was quite different that afternoon, as our teacher had a radio on and our lessons were put on hold.

I remember the great snow storm of 1967.  For me, it meant that I had several days off of school and we could build fantastic snow forts.  It was fun to take my Daisy Air Rifle, shove the business end down into the snow and shoot a plug at my brother.  (Most of these encounters usually ended up in a little bit of roughness of which I am not too proud in my later years.)  I vaguely remember Dad carrying my sister Irene out to Damen Avenue, which was ploughed, so that she could catch a cab and deliver her first son, Paul at Swedish Covenant Hospital.  I am also fairly certain that the drivers in the picture above have a completely different memory of that day than I.

I remember walking into a photo shop on Lincoln Avenue, just north of Irving Park Road, when I heard that the Challenger shuttle had blown up and all astronauts were killed.  I felt sick.

We remember these events as markers in our lives.  Often times they are reinforced in our memory by the period of public memorial or commentary that follows these incredibly significant, communal events.  They become part of our shared history and an instant reference point in our communal conversation.

Meals can serve as communal markers.  I think it is no accident that Christian people join at "The Table of the Lord".

 and that Jews have a Seder meal:

and that Muslims finish Ramadan with Eid ul-Fitr:

and the Bahai end their nineteen days of fasting with Naw-Ruz.

Food nourishes both our bodies and our spirits and points to the goodness of God in creating the earth to be bountiful.  Those with resources to enjoy bounty are reminded in all the Faiths to share their abundance with the poor.  The fact these religious meals are shared bring our faith and commonality to a focal point

Don't show me a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu... show me someone who shares the abundance of their table with those less fortunate.  Then I am interested in their faith.

Thanksgiving Meal 2004

I believe food acts as a communal marker in a family or among close friends as well.  Sometimes the meals are life markers, like a wedding dinner or the repast at a funeral.  Sometimes a favorite meal is one you've had dozens of times in your every day life and speaks to the constancy of family life and love.

Homemade Lasagna... mmm!

When I am no longer on this earth, I want my descendants to enjoy this meal... dip spaghetti.  It served as a focal point for many a family meal and to me embodies what it means to be family.  It is called Dip Spaghetti because when Danika was small, she was an incredibly picky eater.  One of the few things she would eat was this sauce in a bowl, into which she dipped rotini, hence, Dip Spaghetti.

It really is delicious.

Dip Spaghetti

48 ounce jar of Prego Spaghetti Sauce (Traditional, although you can use other varities)
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 palmful Oregano
1 palmful Basil
1 teaspoon Crushed Rosemary
1 teaspoon Fennel Seed
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 to 3 Tablespoons Sugar to taste

1.  Mix all of the ingredients except salt, pepper and sugar and simmer for about two hours until the sauce begins to stick to the sides of the pot and become thicker.  Adjust with the salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

If you want to add meat, take 1 1/2 pounds of very lean ground beef or turkey and brown in the pot you will use to make the sauce.  Make sure the meat is dry and fully browned before adding the rest of the ingredients.


  1. You forgot the parsley! :) Add 2 tbsp parsley as well.

  2. Yes, you are absolutely right... 2 tablespoons of dried parsley.