“Stir the Sauce” and “Pass the Bread” — Two, broken record statements I heard every Sunday while growing up in New Jersey.
My mother was (and still is) an outstanding cook, but Sunday dinners were extra special. Macaroni and sauce with meatballs, bracciole, stuffed mushrooms or artichokes, salad and semolina garlic bread — Ma made it all, and she never once complained about the work involved in preparing such a fabulous meal for her family. While the sauce was cooking, Ma would be washing a load of laundry. I’d be in another room either doing homework or watching the Giants with my father, and I’d hear my mother shout, “Jenny! Stir the sauce! And make sure you get the bottom too!”
God help you if the sauce stuck to the bottom of that pot. This was a Sunday ritual, and by the time I reached high school, I could predict almost to the minute when my mother would tell me to stir the sauce.
Once we sat down to eat, Dad went to town. He’d serve himself several scoops of salad and say, “Jen, pass the bread,” as if he was in a hurry or had an appointment to go somewhere. Somehow, I always sat near the bread, and I was the one in charge of passing it. This was another Sunday ritual.
My grandmother and aunt frequently joined us and even friends began to flock to our table.
Sunday’s quickly became my favorite day of the week. It marked the one day where my family could step back from our hectic lives and enjoy each others’ company around the dinner table. Nostalgia over the good old days was a typical theme. We exchanged laughs, recalling memories of those we loved who had passed on.
That table was more than just a place to sit and eat. It was home. It was the one place where I didn’t have to be “on.” I could just be me — no makeup, hoodie and sweats, hair in a ponytail.
But as the years went on, Sunday dinners with the family began to fade. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this happened, but everyday life seemed to interfere with our family tradition. More time passed. I landed a “real world” job and everyone started to do their own thing.
Then we began living in a world where carbs were deemed evil and deadly. Sunday dinners with the family were lame and antiquated. And for a period of time, I somehow fell into this absurd, social trap.
Finally, I stood up one day and said, “SCREW THAT!”
Sunday dinners meant the world to me, and I’m bringing them back.
To the health nuts who tell me “pasta is really bad for you,” with a demeaning look of pity like I’m some fat ass loser — I kindly say, “Please go scratch!” I’m sick and tired of being told that my family’s heritage is one that leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. My grandparents lived into their 80’s and ate pasta almost everyday. So I’ll live.
Bottom line: Don’t let society dictate what’s best for you. Ignore the cool kids! You’ll find they’re really not so cool after all.
Be true to yourself, and do what makes you happy — even if it’s something as simple as eating a plate of spaghetti — when no one else is.
Sunday dinners made me happy. They brought me back to my core where I was able to relax, laugh and recharge before another hectic week ahead, surrounded by those I love most. I can still hear my mother telling me to “stir the sauce” and my father requesting that I “pass the bread” all these years later. I can’t help but smile when I think of those days.
I want to help others rediscover the little things in life. I’m on this journey with you. It’s never ending.
So I encourage you to be yourself along the way — to stir the sauce, and pass the bread!