Growing up, dinnertime was my favorite part of the day. Why? Because food brought my fractured family together and helped to make us whole again.
When I was eight and my sister was twelve, our mom passed away very suddenly. My dad became a single parent virtually overnight. My father Larry is Italian and grew up in New York, with his mother and grandmother making the classic meal every Sunday of homemade meatballs and sauce (or “gravy,” as the true Italians call it – you know, the red stuff you put on spaghetti, not the brown stuff you put on your turkey and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving). My dad always talked about how he spent a lot of time in the kitchen on Sundays as a kid and, in general, how his love for cooking was cultivated – although perhaps more of his time was spent swiping meatballs from the frying pan than anything else.
“As a single dad raising my two girls, making dinner together was always a fun experience for the three of us. I would turn on some music, pour myself a glass of wine, and my daughters would both watch and participate in making dinner with me. It was often the high point of my day and allowed me to catch up on what was happening in their lives with school, friends and other topics. It was a wonderful bonding experience and it’s no mystery that today, both of my daughters are creative chefs and enjoy being in the kitchen, preparing and eating a healthy, home cooked meal.”
For us, dinner wasn’t just another meal; it wasn’t just food. It was a cherished activity that kept us connected to each other and bonded us in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. My dad took something that he loved – cooking – and turned it into something the three of us could do together as a family, and something we would grow to love, too. For us, dinner meant family time. It meant happy time. During the week, it was really the only quality time we had together, so we made it count. We would watch my dad cook and he would teach us as he went, and let us help. We would make a salad or set the table. It taught us responsibility at the same time as it made us closer. After a busy day of school and work, it was a time for us to rejoin and talk about our day and just be together, enjoying the simple pleasure of a good meal.
So as my dad says, it’s no surprise that, all these years later at ages 26 and 30, my sister and I both truly enjoy cooking. For me, I think it evokes a sense of comfort and fond memories of a time where my family felt in such disarray, and yet such a simple act was able to bring us together and return some sense of normalcy. To me, cooking is family; it’s love. It is something seemingly so small – yet I’ve seen firsthand how cooking meals as a family and sitting around the table together can create bonds to last a lifetime.
Larry’s Spaghetti & Meatballs Family Recipe
1-1 ½ lbs. ground beef
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
1-2 whole eggs
1/3 – ½ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley
3-4 cloves garlic/minced
Mix all ingredients well – roll up meatballs
Fry meatballs in a ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat
2 – 32 oz. cans of whole plum or plum tomato sauce
1 – 12 oc. can tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
Pour olive oil in large sauce pan
Fry garlic cloves over low heat
As garlic browns add plum tomato/sauce
Stir and let simmer
Add tomato paste
Stir let simmer
Boil water along the way
Julia K. Agresto is a writer and blogger. Read her blog at www.positivelybrightblog.wordpress.com.
Larry Agresto is passionate about sharing his experiences as a single parent, and helping other single parents on their journey. Check out his website at www.singledadswithheart.com.