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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Meatballs & Spaghetti

The blog has really gotten away from me. I’m having trouble both finding time to write and figuring out what to write about.

It’s the middle and I hate the middle. One of my goals for grad school was to learn to get past the middle. I’m always excited at the beginning of a project. I can marshal fantastic energy to get something started. But then, when the dream of what I want to create runs into the reality of the faults with my creation, I have a horrible habit: I give up.

In order to prepare myself for my middle problem, I did something silly before grad school. I grew my hair out. It was about 2″ long and I wanted it to be almost to my elbows. When I was younger I had long, wild, curly hair. I thought maybe, for a woman starting over in middle age, it might be fun to recapture some of the spirit of my romantic youth. Growing my hair out required patience through long stretches of middle where I looked like – there is no other word for it – a soccer mom. Coming, as it did, in my mid-40’s it was painful. But I made it through, and now (with the help of some Clairol Natural Instincts #12) I have the hair of my youth.

But here’s what I’ve realized. Discipline is only 1/2 the battle. I have taught myself the discipline of sticking with a difficult project, of writing every day, of finishing a draft I’m struggling with. But creative discipline requires a flexibility to change the original idea to fit the reality of the outcome and I’m struggling with that in both my writing and the blog.

I’m afraid to stop posting every meal, every day, because I’m afraid if I give up on the original conception, I’ll lose the lesson of whatever it had to teach me. But I’m also afraid that if I’m unwilling to change the idea of the project I might be missing out in a different way.

I don’t know how to resolve the conflict. I also don’t know how to get this back to meatballs and spaghetti. Except to say that meatballs and spaghetti was one of the first meals that made me realize that I am more relaxed when I’m not using a recipe which was my first inkling that although I took pride in my Unnatural Cook status, it wasn’t necessarily serving me. I might, in fact, be happier as a Natural Cook. My suspicion is the thing that you don’t know you need to learn is more important than the thing you set out to learn. Which would mean that someday, I might have to be willing to be flexible and change my m.o. with the blog…..



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I broke my own rule about not adulterating meatballs and spaghetti by serving anything else with it: I made kale chips. But the only reason I made the kale chips was so that the kale wouldn’t go bad.

Basically my frugality overcame my strict meatball policy. I bought the kale to go with the pizza I thought we were having on Saturday night but then we went out for dinner and the kale kept getting pushed aside (as did the pizza – see Wednesday night).

The miracle is that I did not burn the kale chips. No, wait, the miracle is that we ate kale chips. They’re made of kale after all. But apparently enough salt and olive oil will make even the vegetabliest of vegetables taste good.

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We all pass down stuff to our kids. One of the more important things I have taught them is this: after you finish your plate of  meatballs and spaghetti the meal is not actually over. Clear your place, get a small bowl, fill it with sauce and eat it with a spoon.

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Nine! Happy birthday Clem and Finn! Your favorite meal is still my favorite meal: meatballs and spaghetti and birthday cake with flowers. Some meals should never be outgrown or improved upon.

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Meatballs and spaghetti is the first dish I learned to cook. It was my favorite meal as a child and is my children’s favorite meal now. My mother always made a huge pot for the two of us and left it in the fridge. We ate it night after night with pleasure. I still make a huge pot although I freeze the leftovers. I try to get three meals out of it but we always eat so much it’s hard to make it stretch. I rarely serve anything with it. Don’t want any distractions.

There is nothing fancy about this recipe. I make it by heart and will try to give instructions but you’ll have to wing it and have faith that the plain ingredients will cook down to something wonderful.

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