2023 Started With Sauce

My New Year started with thoughts of old years. On January 1st I knew I had to make my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce. I didn’t know why. I just knew I needed the smells of grandma’s house filling my kitchen and to feel the presence of those who are no longer here. As the fireworks went off and people toasted 2023, I pulled pig parts and sausages out of the freezer. It was an instinctive action, it was 12:02 AM Sunday morning and Sunday is – was – spaghetti day. I wish it still was, but it hasn’t been for years. Not since my Aunt Catherine died and the family Sunday table collapsed out of my life.

As I started chopping the onions, garlic and green peppers, I remembered the scent of Sundays at grandma’s house. The sauce bubbling on the stove, chicken parts covered with millions of onions roasting in the oven and garlic sputtering in a hot frying pan. The kitchen table was opened up to almost big enough for all the Guerreras that would race in when the firehouse siren roared noon.

Guerrera’s share a Sunday meal. I’m the little one on the right mugging for the camera.

As I added a handful of fresh parsley to the pot, I saw my Aunt Cat grinning. Every time she tossed whole parsley – stems and all – in the sauce pot, she would look at me with her big Cheshire Cat grin. It was her culinary secret to leave the parsley whole so it was easier to fish out. Later, when no one was looking, she would scoop out every cooked piece and eat it. There is something comforting about wilted parsley dripping tomato sauce pulled out of the pot and popped into my mouth. Please don’t tell Jack – he hasn’t seen me do this.

The parsley is ready!  Yummy.
The parsley was ready for tasting.

I left the pot simmering, filling the condo with aromas of my past and visited my walk in closet. Now, we have owned this condo since Covid lockdown and I have never organized my closet. The closet is more than a closet, it could be a New York City studio apartment. My purse collection – yes I love purses and shoes – was tossed up on a shelf that I could barely reach. Clothes that I hadn’t worn in years were cramped in garment bags. We spend half the year in Italy, do I really need to know what is lurking in the garment bags? Sigh – I decided my New Year needed organization and what better way to jump start organizing than as my mom would say, start in one corner and work out. What corner? The closet is in the furthest corner of the place. Hmm. I walked in the closet door, remembered my mom, and stopped at the first corner. A corner that held an old dresser, four shelves stuffed with who knows what and a couple of squished robes. Starting at the top, I pulled a plastic box down off the highest shelf. My primary concern was not passing out after the hard plastic conked me in the noggin. My second concern was who would find me in the closet if I was bleeding from plastic pieces and lying on the floor. Luckily, my sense of drama was stronger than the box and I managed to catch it before it conked me. Having no idea what was in the box, I shoved the stuff that was on top of the dresser on the floor, plopped the plastic box on the newly cleared dresser top and opened it up. New gloves I didn’t know I owned, spiked rubber things to put under you boots and prevent death by black ice, Christmas joke jewelry from a pazillion years ago, empty jewelry boxes and –

I wore it with great joy and love.

Now I understand why the universe told me to make that sauce! After finding this precious piece of my history and the condo full of the odor of my grandma’s kitchen, I knew where my 2023 was headed. Back even further into my past and closer to the family of my present.

Buon anno! Have a healthy, happy, creative and successful 2023! May all your resolutions come to pass and if they don’t may laughter fill your days. Abbracione.

Ci vediamo a presto –

Midge, www.midgeguerrera.com

10 thoughts on “2023 Started With Sauce

  1. FAB blog out of the 2023 gate, Midge!! Funny how the end of one year and the start of a new one can suddenly bring back poignant moments of nostalgia. Esp. as we get more “seasoned” in life!

    Mine last week between holidays was finally uncovering the nagging mystery of where exactly I spent a wondrous, long summer in the Catskills, escaping a hot and humid Bronx when I was 5 1/2 yrs old . A summer away-camp gift, courtesy of Noni Amelia, my Sicilian grandmother. Blessed be the Internet which is known to store buried treasure! St. Agnes Villa Summer Camp, run by Dominican Nuns (seriously, I kid you not), in Wurtsboro, NY. It’s no longer there, all the buildings are gone (but not forgotten in web photos), but like a true archeological dig, the big pond and the faint outlines of the dirt roads and activity areas can plainly be seen in the Google Map.

    So a New Year’s toast to our incredible grandmothers–they’re still with us more than we know!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Midge for this sentimental, funny and real remembrance manifested into your present and graciously shared.
    For me, it was Christmas Eve at my Swedish immigrant grandparents farm in Indiana. A wood stove produced “limpa” or Swedish rye bread, meatballs over potatoes with gravy and the dreaded “Lutefisk”, sort of a reconstituted dry fish in lye now a stinking gelatinous mess. TRADITION, my grandparents repeated as we grandkids held our noses whilst our parents chuckled. This oddity is a staple of Garrison Keillor’s tales of the Norwegians in MN. Best of all was the “Tompteguber” story of a little elf my Grandma had seen as a girl in “the old country” under the bed on Christmas eve. It brought sweets to the good and something nasty to the nasty. Even in their pietistic Christianity there was some sense of justice. All about were the “yulbok”, straw goats with red trimmings and many colored lights.
    Grandpa distributing the presents was the evening’s culmination.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this and it makes me wonder if everyone thinks their grandmother made the best spaghetti sauce. Our spaghetti day was Saturday. I also sometimes find notes from my mom or Aunt Winnie or Aunt Grace among the boxes I’ve stored in my attic. I like to think they are still watching out for us from somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Midge! I loved this memory of “family table” and the accompanying photo! Precious. My mother was a Swedish/Irish girl who married into an Italian family and she could make a great sauce.
    I made neopolitan style pizza twice this season. I made a “polish” and twice cold-fermented the dough. I will forever be seeking to make it better. I’ve learned a lot since “Cooking in Pontelandolfo” with the village ladies. But somehow, everything tasted better being in Italy!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Midge, I love hearing about your trip down memory lane. The smell of food being prepared is a powerful trigger, and the not so simple act honors your past. Dining together as a family of relatives and friends is powerful treat to our happiness. The Ukrainian home I was brought up in, was always full of all kinds of scents (good and bad). My Grandparents worked, gardened and cooked non-stop. We always had enough food to feed an army, and nothing would go to waste. The smell of cooked cabbage, to this day comforts me like nothing else. I say a worthy New Year’s resolution that fills our souls would be to pursue the old traditions of weekly meals with family and friends or at least one other person that we love……….Happy New Year …….Jimmy Martin

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Midge…

    Happy New Year!!! I finally just read this….wonderful memories! I can smell the sauce!!

    Hope all is healthy..


    Michelle (Micky) Brackett Broker/Associate Coldwell Banker Realty Serving Hunterdon/Somerset Counties Residential/Commercial 908-295-1107/Cell Email: mkbrackett527@gmail.com



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