The Traditional Meatball Food Fight
Sometimes conflict forces great new ideas. Here’s one such story in which, while I’ve always known spaghetti and meatballs to be my dad’s signature dish, I only recently learned why.
My mom grew up with four siblings, and my grandmother Betty learned to simplify meals, for obvious reasons. That meant ground beef thrown into the pan to make meat sauce, no time for ballin’ so to speak. So while raising her own young family, my mother made meat sauce, despite my dad’s preference for his mother’s traditional meatballs. Upon dad’s further insistence for meatballs she said, well…no. But out of this harmonious situation came a real opportunity, as they agreed that he could indeed have a ball, in the kitchen! So for the rest of my childhood and to this day, my dad has made perfect spaghetti and meatballs, a perennial family favorite and a source of some culinary pride. Outside of grilling and pancakes he doesn’t cook very much else, but you’ve gotta try his “chef’s special,” it is excellent.
What might have happened if my mother was in the mood to compromise at that time? Doesn’t matter, she clearly wasn’t. But I’m curious to hear your own experiences with family traditions being melded together. Ever had a conflict, with or without something good coming out of it? Please tell me in the comments.
See my recipe for Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs.
My dad loved meatloaf, but my older sister refused to eat it. My mom’s solution: she’d make the meatloaf, and before sticking it in the oven, she’d pull out a fist’s worth of the meatloaf mix, pick out any particularly big pieces of onion, and fry it up as a hamburger for my sis, who was none the wiser until many years later when my mom finally ‘fessed up.
My husband and I grew up eating very differently. In our first year of marriage, I cooked what I knew, namely, casseroles. Casseroles are one-dish wonders and very economical. I was proud of myself, though that sentiment didn’t last long. I made a tater tot casserole. My husband tasted it and said, “Thank you for making dinner, but please don’t ever make this again.” I was crushed, but I learned to cook the way he likes to eat. (We laugh about the story, now, with no hard feelings!) He prefers all foods separate on the plate, no mixing like in casseroles or crock pots. (Incidentally, meat loaf is out, much to my dismay. I now order meat loaf at restaurants because I miss it.) So, meat of some kind, steamed or roasted vegetable, and a side dish. And, he likes lots of variety. My challenge is that it is more expensive to cook this way, but it can also be more healthy. It has been fun learning to cook healthy foods in new ways, and challenging myself to find ways to do this without breaking the budget. I do miss the convenience and “comfort” of casseroles, though.
Krista I always love your thoughtful comments. It’s clear you put a priority on figuring out how to make the food routine work for all of you. My Krista tends to be the casserole lover in our house, though you’re right, they are quite economical, and can be quite tasty. Two words: crunchy noodles.