I always wanted to come from a family that had Sunday night dinners. I envied the Italians I grew up around, the garlicky smells from other families' bubbling pots of sauce (or "gravy," as true Philly Italians call it). My big and rowdy extended family liked to spend a Sunday hiking through the woods or throwing a football in the back yard. My mother's "gravy" came from a jar, and was as likely to appear in a hurry on a Tuesday than Sunday.
We all have our cross to bear.
Living across the country from my family has drawbacks (I miss graduations, birthday parties and piano recitals), but a bonus is that as a transplant I get to pick an L.A. family. Though it wasn't a conscious choice, I have many great cooks with different backgrounds in my chosen family. (Some of them are even Italian!)
Last night I had the thrill of going to my friend LeeAnn's place for a traditional Sunday night dinner. She made her grandmother's sauce, which is a two-day affair involving slow-cooked shortribs, a rich tomato base, and homemade meatballs. Oh it was heaven. The shredded shortrib meat was strong and earthy, the sauce itself had layers of flavor, and her meatballs. sigh. My meatballs are a pale reflection of LeeAnn's splendor. I suspect she used several different meats, plenty of garlic-- they were hearty, not heavy, and had a firm texture but weren't rubbery (like mine). She started us with a beautiful salad of avocado and golden tomato, there was garlic bread, and the meal ended with two kinds of delicate cream puffs. Amaretto chocolate and lemon raspberry. Sweet Lord.
It was the night before September 11th. On the eve of a day of great loss, what a gift to look around the table at LeeAnn and my friends Ruth and Benno, to eat delicious food prepared in love, and to feel like family.