The Old Salt offers recipes and recollections every other week while Dear Salty mulls her answers to your pressing questions.
Hello Honey Lambs,
I want to offer you something whimsical and light and comforting to end this dark, dark week under our new chancellor, I mean leader, I mean President Trump, but there is not enough macaroni and cheese in all the land to cure what ails us this week which is fascism. I worry too many of us think that’s hyperbole, metaphor, allegory. It is not.
I don’t use the word fascism as a rhetorical whim because I did that once as a kid and my Italian grandfather, Gus, scowled and told me, “none of that” and wound up getting teary and talking to me a long time about Italy and Mussolini and freedom. Long before I knew what fascism was, really, I knew it was not OK to say “She’s a fascist” when referring to my third grade math teacher, Sr. Alexis, for assigning homework over the weekend, nor to anyone else who was not in fact enacting fascistic practices, as President Trump is.
President Trump – I think it’s important to call him that, not out of respect but to keep in mind how much power he has – has rolled back the clock in the last seven days, making it clear that he is an enemy of freedoms and liberty and justice. We are living in a kakistocracy and I miss my dead grandparents like hell, but I’m glad they didn’t live to see this.
They helped raise me, my grandparents. My grandfather shared the kitchen with Sophie – an African-american maid and cook my white family brought up to DC from Alabama when she was just 16 and employed for 50 years until her death at 66. She never learned to read, or tell time. They taught me to cook, really cook, Sophie and Gus. I already knew how to eat and loved food and its comforts and delights. It wasn’t until my first cold winter in a small beach town that I learned to drink, really drink.
I learned about social justice from my grandfather. About injustice from Sophie and the way my family treated her despite being what we might call “good white people.” I learned how to be a human being here in Rehoboth Beach. Right now we need to think about all three: social justice, injustice, our common humanity.
We aren’t going to get out of this alive. Some of our brothers and sisters are surely going to die because of Trump’s decisions – whether to block immigrants and refugees, to fight wars, to deny health care to those in need – people are going to die. There is more destruction, but we are living in a land now where the state does not help us thrive; it no longer even cares if we are alive.
How did we get here? How are we going to get out? Can we? We’ll be talking about that here in my Old Salt columns. And about Gus and Sophie and food and drink. It’s time — long past – to talk about this country’s past which might too be our family’s past and our own past. It is time to refuse to be marched – or allow others to be marched – to our deaths.
Here’s some food to fortify you for the fight:
The Gus Gentile/Marcella Hansen Pasta Bolognese
Over the years, I’ve created a mash-up of my grandfather and the great chef Marcella Hansen’s Bolognese recipes. This sauce is to be added to a nice wide, flat fresh (or boxed) pasta – something that will nicely hold the sauce, like tagliatelle or even pappardelle or fettuccine. You can also use a tube such as rigatoni and penne. My favorite is cavatappi. Make sure to have lots of a good crusty bread around to soak up the extra sauce.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 2/3 pound ground beef chuck
- 1/3 ground pork
- Black pepper, ground fresh
- 1 cup whole milk
- Whole nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cup very dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
- 1 pound pasta
- Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table
- Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
- Add ground beef and pork, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the meat has lost its raw, red color.
- Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating — about 1/4 teaspoon — of nutmeg—BUT NO MORE — and stir.
- Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at a lazy simmer, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 4-5 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt. This will make a nearly thick paste.
- Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.