There is not just one thing that won me over. It keeps happening, a sequence of moments and expressions and facts about the man by my side. The lack of resistance is a big one. A willingness to be open and let the day take us. He is warm and incredibly kind but does not dole out compliments like confetti. Each bask of praise and appreciation is given with weight and time and a holiness. I think I have been sighing for the last few months.
I will say, with perhaps his admittance, he is not an incredibly accomplished cook. Maybe he is only allowed the multitude of artistic and intrinsic geniuses he currently carries. I need to bring something to this union. So he watches with gratitude and appeal, as I move about his kitchen and concoct a late night Sunday meal.
Something has been telling me red sauce lately. And even though the most gorgeous ripe sweet tomatoes are now revealing themselves and will last till November (hopefully), I want to make an old style canned sauce. I want to know I’m able. I want to celebrate our joint Italian heritage, and his black haired gorgeous Italian mother on this Mother’s day, the one that taught him the smile he gives me that cracks open my chest. She has the same eyes as his, only his are a devastating blue. And I don’t say this cause I am in love. They are truly the bluest of blue. They let me swim in his face for extended periods of time, but usually I need something to hold on to or lean against if I do it for too long.
So we shop for ingredients. We make do with a few small saucepans and no oregano. With eagerness and appreciation, anything can be accomplished. I like learning this over and over again.
Garlic, a carrot, and a badly chopped onion are sautéed in oil (I chopped the onion, not him). Impatience and hunger have me pouring in two cans of crushed San Marzano’s before I add the tomato paste. I suggest you add the paste first, letting the base become dense with flavor, then adding your dried herbs. You will never get this step back, so savor it, make it rich and potent. I add too much wine. Which you can’t really, but that just means a little less for us.
Cook. Cook. Cook all day if you can. Or cook for 20 minutes like we did. The magnificent sous chef is asking questions, he is juggling pots and finding a can opener and telling me how he likes bitter vegetables. Oh, lord.
He blanches asparagus for a couple minutes; I fry up garlic and a shallot. We toss the asparagus in, salt and add lemon. I swoon over his ancient cast iron pan; he swoons over the burnt garlic.
How two folks dance together can say a lot about their chemistry. But I find the truth can lie in the dance of preparing a meal, or fixing a broken appliance, or sitting in contented silence. I think when it comes to food I can be a control freak. I like the willingness to become softer, to let things be imperfect. I take the pasta out a few minutes under its done-ness. We cook it the rest of the way in the sauce. Large rigatoni’s topped with parmesan. Another thing I’m not sure you can have too much of.
The pasta is good. It could be better, but it settles something inside. The ultimate comfort food is found for me in homemade pasta and red wine. Another man’s steak and mashed potatoes. It feels like home to me, no matter where I am. And when you are swimming in blue eyed bliss, floating in a long awaited deep warm love, it is nice to keep your feet on the ground and your belly full.