I was feeling adventurous that day. So instead of sticking to my list, I roamed up and down each aisle of Sam’s Club, eyeing things I would not normally buy. Then I saw it: the gi-normous can of crushed tomatoes. I thought, “That would make a gi-normous pot of red gravy. My family likes red gravy. I should get that.” In the cart it went.
It sat in the pantry for a couple of weeks. Anxiety started to set in. I didn’t have a suitable recipe. I’ve only made homemade red gravy once. I’m not sure I’m ready. What if it’s not as good as my mother-in-law’s? My old fears welled up, and I actually considered returning it for a refund donating the can to the food bank.
Then Mr. Wonderful went out for town for a few days, and I figured I had a window. I’d try it, and if it turned out badly, throw it out and buy a gallon of sauce from Venezia’s — no one would be the wiser. Game on.
I posted a request on Facebook for recipes and input from friends, and got lots of great responses. Since I was making an ordeal adventure out of it, I opted to follow my nephew’s advice. He is, after all, of Sicilian descent AND in culinary school, and he taught me about barding when I made braciolone.
Armed with his recipe, I went to the grocery store. (Not Wal-Mart, the actual supermarket with fresh produce and specialty herbs!) I got the freshest herbs (the kind still potted…) and spices I’ll probably never use again. But if this was good, Mr. Wonderful was going to love me more than ever. (Italian boys have weird relationships with food.)
I picked fresh basil from my garden, and washed it carefully. (NOTE: always check fresh herbs thoroughly, including the underneath side of the leaves where Ladybugs hide. I almost added a little extra flavoring to my pot!)
I poured a glass of wine and put on my apron (to get the full “chef” effect), and started cooking.
I felt very sophisticated making the cheesecloth pouch, and kept looking out of the window to see if by any chance a Food Network camera crew was nearby, because surely this much effort was worth my own TV show. I filled the pouch with great care while singing an Italian song. (That part of the recipe came from my friend’s mom, Ms. Bernie.) I followed the recipe carefully, making notes on any variations for future ordeals adventures.
Two glasses of wine later Three hours later I tasted my sauce and it was delicious! The plan was to have it for dinner the next night, when Mr. Wonderful returned home. I transferred the sauce to smaller bowls to store overnight, because I forgot one important detail: when making a gi-normous pot of anything, make sure you have enough containers to store it or enough people to eat it. (Gi-normous pots do not fit in the fridge.)
I felt accomplished and validated when I was finished. I have now completely conquered my fear of Italian cooking, and will be scouring the Food Network’s web site later to let them know I’m ready for my show.
And the next time I go to Sam’s, I’ll grab 2 cans of those tomatoes.