*This is the second blog in a series on food traditions
After nine months (not counting the nine days after his due date that he decided to hang out in the womb) and 27 hours of labor, our sweet little boy, Davis, entered this world at 3:42 am two years ago on July 17.
I like to think that he acquired his budding foodie tendencies during his nine month-plus stay inside me. I tried my best to eat healthy but I was pleased to sample the amazing food of Paris and of course engage in some sinful cooking during my pregnancy. I remember that whenever I ate something divine or cooked something that both my husband and I enjoyed, I wondered, “Will Davis love this dish as much as we do one day?” I gleefully interpreted every kick from the little person inside me as a sign of approval after a bowl of risotto or a particularly good crème brulee.
As he has moved from breast milk to formula to pureed food to the milestone cheerio experience and then beyond into the great foodie frontier of non-pureed foods, it is clear my son loves food.
Hence, Davis’ request for his current favorite meal, noo noo’s and meatballs (translation: spaghetti and meatballs), for his birthday made me smile from ear to ear.
But I am realizing it is not just the food that Davis loves.
Over Davis’ birthday dinner, I was observing how he thoroughly enjoys eating with people and holding court while doing so. Generally, he likes to discuss the many diggers, dump trucks and garbage trucks he encountered during his day. Sometimes he will recount how he helped me cook the meal we are eating.
Davis becomes even more animated when he discovers he can draw a reaction from his dinner partners. In recent months, even a trip to the bagel store becomes a social experience as Davis eagerly visits with customers entering the store and the employees, who know him by name.
In my family, it is as much about the social aspect that accompanies our food consumption as it is the food itself.
Whether it is shopping for our food or eating it, even the best grocery store/market or the most fantastic meal is only average without good company.
As we ate our dinner of spaghetti and meatballs on Davis’ birthday and as I watch him grow, I think often about how much my dad would have enjoyed Davis. Although Dad passed away before Davis was born, it is remarkable the qualities they share. I’ve written quite a bit on this blog about Dad’s love of food and cooking and how for him, eating was a social experience.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with his grandson who is embracing the social aspect of all things food-related.
Davis’ enthusiasm for the social side of food is reminiscent of Dad’s trips to an Italian grocery store in Milwaukee where after frequent visits, everyone knew him by name and vice versa. The family that owns the store still speaks of him fondly many years after his passing. Dad also frequented a small diner for breakfast on his way to work in Milwaukee. He grew to know the employees and the regulars at the counter where he sat and discussed sports and why the Packers were God’s gift to the world. Yes, it was good to “take nourishment” as Dad liked to say, but he loved the visiting while eating his plate full of eggs and bacon.
With my little family of three, it is likely that just as food played an important role in helping form memories from my childhood, it is just as important today in making new memories for Davis and for me in my role as a wife and mother.
After putting a very tired and satiated Davis to bed on his birthday, I was reminded that each day with my son is another beautiful reminder of the circle of life. While some people are taken from us sooner than we hoped, we are blessed to be given new life. It is through wonderful little people who carry on traits of those who have passed, that we are reminded of treasured memories, while at the same time helping create new memories to last the rest of our days.
Homemade Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce
Recipe note: I found that by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil and then adding it to the well-seasoned ground beef (kosher salt, pepper, oregano, Italian bread crumbs and plenty of grated parmesan cheese) made the meatballs full of flavor and less dry.
For the spaghetti sauce, I have found that you really must taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. I recommend using San Marzano crushed tomatoes when possible. But, you really should add a tablespoon of sugar to the sauce to help bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes. It made all the difference. I also add a healthy amount of grated parmesan cheese to the sauce and on occasion, let the sauce simmer with parmesan rinds in it when I have them handy.
Homemade Meatballs Ingredients
Makes 6-10 meatballs depending on size
1 ½ lbs ground beef (I use 90 or 93% lean ground beef)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, chopped
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until the onion in soft. Stir frequently to keep the garlic from burning. Once done sautéing, remove from pan using a slotted spoon and set aside the garlic and onion in a small bowl.
Place the ground beef in a large bowl and season generously with kosher salt, pepper and oregano. Mix well (using your hands or even a fork) and season a bit more to ensure all the meat gets an even coat of this seasoning.
Next, add the onion and garlic to the ground beef and mix well to incorporate. Add bread crumbs, mix well and then the parmesan cheese. Mix well to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, beat the egg thoroughly and then add slowly to the ground beef mixture, mixing as you go to ensure the egg is evenly distributed throughout the ground beef.
Form ground beef mixture into medium-sized balls. In a large, deep sauté pan,over medium-high heat a generous amount of olive oil (enough to coat bottom of the pan thoroughly plus a little extra, make sure it is about ½ inch deep in pan) until you can see it smoking.
Place meatballs in the hot oil and turn during cooking to allow them to cook thoroughly and brown on each side. The cooking time will depend on the size of the meatballs. It can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. I generally reduce the heat to medium while cooking. This also seems to allow the meatballs to not dry out while cooking though it takes a bit more time. I recommend cutting open one meatball to see how it is cooking. Once it is no longer pink, it’s ready to eat!
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients
Recipe note: I can’t emphasize how important it is to taste the sauce while it cooks and season as you go. Taste it here and there and add salt, pepper and oregano as needed. I would go easy on the pepper. Occasionally, I sprinkle in some garlic salt as well if the sauce needs a bit more flavor.
2 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (San Marzano brand recommended)
½ yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (more if you like the taste in your sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar
Pepper (use sparingly)
Garlic salt (if needed … it never hurts to add a few shakes)
DetailsIn a large stock pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Cook until onion is soft.
Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and parmesan cheese.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano to taste. I add a ton of oregano because I love the flavor.
Cook on low heat for 30 minutes to an hour.