Tuesday, December 16, 2008


When my grandmother was a young girl, her favourite meal to cook was spaghetti with her own recipe for tomato sauce. Everybody in the family loved this sauce and asked her to make it at least once a week.
My mother was just about weened on the stuff and when she grew up she also began making her own sauce, and as she did she adjusted it here and there until her sauce was preferred to her own mother's.
Even my grandmother preferred my mother's spaghetti sauce and she boasted to her friends that she had taught my mother very well indeed!
After a while it wasn't just family than pestered my mother to cook her sauce, but friends also invited her over to cook for them in exchange for being spoilt rotten with anything else she wanted.
Then I was born.
As was my mother I grew up with spaghetti and 'special sauce' at least once a week and when I was let loose on my own in the kitchen (aged about nine) it was one of the first meals I mastered.
As my mother did before me, I tweaked the ingredients here and there and before long my mother admitted that I had taken the crown from her and my grandmother was thrilled to bits that her teachings had passed down the family so well. And of course, she far preferred my sauce to her daughter's.
I've often wondered what would have happened if I'd ever had a daughter.
According to anyone who's ever tried my sauce, it's the best they've ever had and whichever way I make it as well. Sometimes I add clams, other times I make a Bolognese variety and I still love to cook the plain tomato sauce and add chopped up beefburgers as my mother did for a 'fun meal' when I was tiny.
I reckon that my recipe would give Gross Loydman Loyd Grossman a run for his money, but had I had a daughter she could well have put Ragu and Dolmio out of business within a year or so. I wonder if it would work if I adopted?
Anyways, when I was still little and my mother was cooking the sauce, my parents would often take in foreign students. Mostly we got Americans but one time we got the news that two Italian brothers were coming to stay for a month. As the Americans usually brought us foodie gifts such as plastic cheese and instant coffee, we wondered if the Italian boys would also bring us a taste of their homeland.
When they arrived we weren't disappointed as they announced they were going to cook us spaghetti!
As we all loved Italian food (Not only was I taught all about it by an Italian restaurant owner friend of my dad's, but my mum and I had just come back from holiday there a month or so before) and so we were all excited as we eagerly awaited dinner.
I set the table and dashed back into the kitchen to join my mother who was watching the proceedings to see if she could pick up any tips.
We settled in out of the way and watched carefully as the boys took out a packet of dried spaghetti, and put it into a large pan of boiling, salted water.
After about ten minutes they announced it was ready, and would we like to try it?
My mother stared at them in astonishment, not quite knowing what to say until I whispered (not so sotto voce) "But mummy, what about the sauce?"
It turned out that the boys honestly thought that people here in England had never had pasta before, and would be delighted to try plain, boiled spaghetti without even butter and black pepper on it. My mother explained that we had plenty of pasta over here and we normally had ours with a sauce; didn't they?
After they told us that they didn't have a clue how to make a sauce as their mother wouldn't let them in the kitchen, my mother made her tomato sauce, and guess what?
The boys said it was even better than their mother's but never, ever let her know as they'd be thrown out of the home, and possibly the village as well.
If anybody wants my recipe for spaghetti sauce, they'll be out of luck as I've never written it down.
But I will do one day, I promise.