Bad, bad blogger. In between taking the lasagna out of the oven and sitting down to eat it, I received some unsettling news and I forgot all about taking a picture of the final dish. I could still snap the leftovers in the fridge but they wouldn’t look as appealing. The lasagna was, once again, a craving for my mother’s cooking. During the “dark years” of my vegetarianism, my mother, whose cooking repertoire is steeped in meat dishes, was trying her best to feed me, all the while lamenting her lack of ideas and my objection to meatIn fairness, I wasn’t living at home any longer, I wasn’t even living in the same country but, every time I visited or during Christmas vacations, my mom would start plotting meals well in advance of my arrival. She still does. At least two weeks before I am due to land, I know to expect the question “What do you want to eat when you get here?”
“Mom, I will be so jet-lagged and stuffed from bad airline food, really, don’t make a fuss”.
The conversation never ever varies and I just don’t know why I don’t sit down and make a list of dishes I want instead of fighting her. It’s a bone she will not let go of until I give her an answer.
I have never been very good at deciding in advance what I want to eat. My youth was dogged by the same question every morning upon setting off for school.
“What do you want to eat today?” while I was reaching for the door.
“I don’t know” I would answer with annoyance in my voice and a shrug of the shoulders. Between 14 and 18, my last concern in life was food. The same question would be posed to my father who probably cooperated a lot more than I, given his love for all things edible. My sister, seven years my junior, didn’t earn meal question privileges until my father left home and I set out for college. Yes, it sucks being the youngest.
It wasn’t until decades later that I came to understand my mother’s predicament: the poor soul made lunch and dinner for a family of four every single friggin’ day, vacations, some evenings out and some Sundays excluded. If you have to cook two meals a day for most of your grown-up life, I am not surprised she needed ideas or at least a hint of what her crowd might favour on any given day.
The family would gather around the dining room table at 1:30, when I got home from school and then again at 8:00 pm for dinner and two courses were invariably served – a pasta dish or soup followed by a meat/fish dish with vegetables. Every day. Twice a day. Frankly, with nary a help from Martha Stewart, I am not sure how she pulled it out of her hat. Sometimes new recipes would wind their ways into her repertoire, compliments of a friend or of some relative whose dishes she had tasted. All of us had our favourites and our dislikes – god, how I hated ossobuco, liver or, ghastly horror !, tongue…Tortellini, noodles with meat ragout, chicken cacciatore, duck a l’orange, rabbits with black olives were among my favourites and it took me a long time to realize that not everybody ate that way. At 13, I started craving fish fingers, tasted at a friend’s house and forever more banned at mine.
No wonder breakfast was totally ignored. I would wake up before everybody else, shower and sneak into the yellow kitchen to make myself a large cup of milk with a shot of espresso which I would down sitting at the kitchen table, all by myself, munching on a Buondi (a sort of Italian brioche dotted with sugar) or a piece of toast with jam. When I was old enough to have some pocket-money, breakfast morphed into a pit-stop at a coffee shop where a cappuccino and a croissant would be consumed standing at the counter.
Now, this started as a post about the mushroom lasagna I was craving and made last night and I am not sure how it ended up down memory lane. For the actual recipe and the pics, you will have to wait until tomorrw. Leftovers are calling me.