Friday, September 18, 2009

Nana's Sauce

Let me start this post by admitting the following, I am not a good cook. I generally need a recipe and not just any recipe, a step by step guide with definitions for thing such as "whip lightly" or "sautee" or "fold in X ingredient". When I was back in Canada, I had a trusty beginner's cookbook and relied heavily on any recipe based on a Campbell's soup. Sure there were times I got adventurous and attempted cheesecake. And to my surprise, it turned out amazing. I even had my photo taken with it and constantly prodded tasters with questions like, "No, really, how good is it?"

But then I moved to Montenegro with no Campbell's soup in sight, surrounded by authentic homemade goodies and a serious lack of easy-peezy ingredients. Luckily, around that time, I decided to become an Atkins girl, which meant I had a free pass from kitchen creativity and cooked lumps of meat with stir-fried whatever veggie.

My mother-in-law is an amazing cook. Well, duh. All those Ukranian, Croatian and Italian inspired bellywarming dishes. Cabbage rolls, homemade chicken soup and the all-time family favourite...Nana's spaghetti sauce.

Nana is Ukrainian/Croatian but was married to an Italian for some years and obviously picked up a talent for Italian cuisine. There isn't an Italian on this planet that can compete with her sauce and the Italian side of the family have admitted it.

Whenever we go home, you can bet there's a pot of sauce on the stove..tomato based with hearty meatballs bouncing around on the surface.

I've never attempted to make said sauce and for two reasons: 1. It's Nana's claim to fame so I vowed not to attempt it until the day she can no longer make it. 2. Fear of failure or perhaps worse, what if by some miracle, it's better that the original?

Circumstances have changed.

I find myself with no Nana around, a pack of nostalgic boys AND a tribe of preteens about to enter my house tonight for dinner and a sleepover (one with an allergy to gluten). And the Nana is thousands of miles away. The last time the girls came over, I served up some yummy homemade burgers and this time, I'm super busy and need to make something fast and "easy" and different. I broke my vow, called Nana on Skype and asked her for THE recipe.

I was only half paying attention as she was giving it to me as flashbacks for a particular "Everyone loves Raymond" episode were running through my head. Do you remember the one I'm talking about? Well here's the synopsis. Deborah, like me, sucks in the kitchen. Marie, like my mother-in-law, is always cooking up generous portions of hearty soulfood. Deborah decides she wants to learn how to cook Marie's famous sauce. They spend a day of bonding over the stove making the sauce together, with Marie telling her the most important ingredient is LOVE. It's beautiful. These two frenemies finally becoming friends. It's suppertime at Ray's house and they all sit down to Deborah's attempt at Marie's sauce. She's excited. They're scared. The sauce, as you may have guessed, is awful. Marie spends the evening wondering what could have possibly gone wrong, thinking she doesn't have the LOVE. She checks and rechecks her recipe, breaks into Marie's house and checks the original recipe. Nothing. Then she sees a spice jar label losing its grip. Marie switched the ingredients! She actually sabotaged Marie's sauce. Deborah's fuming. To make a long story short, Marie did in fact do this deliberately. She did it because she believes her food is all she has and she didn't want Deborah to take it away from her. Kinda sad and funny. They made peace, which I believe included Deborah promising never to make THE sauce.

Back to today. I don't have the Marie/Deborah relationship with my mother-in-law THANK GOD. But regardless, here I am making HER sauce. A recipe, which like all Nana recipes, calls for a can of this, a dash of that and no measurable amounts of ANY ingredient. Perfect for someone who ONLY follows recipes.

So there it sits on the stove waiting for a hungry brood. I've watched her make it a hundred times. And the meatballs have NOT fallen apart, small victory for the daughter-in-law. But my mother-in-law has nothing to worry about. It's not the LOVE I'm missing but personal control over dispensing of SALT. Looks like they'll be LOTS of water glasses to refill tonight...


septembermom said...

Good for you for trying! It sounds like a hard act to follow. I bet you'll get the recipe right real soon!

H F W said...

I'm really curious about what this sauce tastes like, but I guess it's not really one of those recipes you share with your blogging friends. :)
Good luck with the sauce, and I bet it will be fabulous!

SwedishJenn said...

It's good ladies! I took some advice and added a potato to absorb the salt and it did the trick. Though my meatballs were more like bowlling balls. I should've listened to Ma and added that extra egg. Dang it! It's so deliriously easy. Nothing fresh, all canned..ha! But really yummy. I will definitely share the uhmm "recipe?" very soon :-)

Mon said...

Canned?? I can't even imagine how to make a sauce from all canned? Except tomatoe puree.
Being Spanish/Italian, pasta sauce is my specialty too. Would LOVE to taste nana's.
I've seen that Raymond episode, lol - she's so evil, lol, although as you say, she gives an understandable reason at the end.
Good on you for making it!