Manna from Mamaw

by Kim Long

My paternal grandmother wasn’t a great cook, she wasn’t a decorator or a “nester,” making her home a place of style or comfort. She was a large and funny woman who loved to laugh and quilt and could envelope a person in an enormous embrace. She was also a very hard worker. At a very early age she was taken out of school and sent to work in the fields; from there she went to work in a “dry goods” store. She worked there until her retirement.

Even though she wasn’t a great cook, there were three solid dishes in her repertoire and of those three, one is my all time favorite comfort food. There have been times when I would telephone my sister or brother and one or both of us would sing song, “Guess what I just made,” but we didn’t have to guess, we just knew… Mamaw’s spaghetti. Let me clarify that there isn’t anything intrinsically “Italian” in this recipe other than the fact that it uses pasta. I am fairly certain that she never expected to end up being the inspiration for our Lenten Fridays. My siblings and I laugh and talk about her regularly and her name, Louise, which my granddaughter, niece and great niece carry, along with her spaghetti, is perhaps her most enduring legacy.

Lent is upon us and with that the challenge of meatless Fridays which may not necessarily challenge our will or our faith, but, let’s face it, can be a challenge in the kitchen. Not everyone likes fried fish or tuna casserole, shocking but true. And how many pancakes can we prepare and still look the scales squarely in the eye, especially when we want to look our best in our Easter finery?

So one Lent I realized I could fix this and still maintain the no meat requirement. I will give you this recipe in two versions, her original and my slightly modified. Feel free to try either of them.

As you can see I have changed the recipe to reflect the availability of certain ingredients my Mamaw wasn’t always able to access. But I can tell you this, made her way it’s just as tasty, though perhaps very different than that to which many of us are accustomed. Made her way she is present at the table, with me at the stove, as I phone my sister or brother and brag about what I’m having for supper. She is reminding me that a few ingredients stirred with love and a bit of determination can nourish us throughout time.

Mamaw’s Spaghetti

Equipment Needed:
• Black iron skillet
• Colander

Ingredients:
• 1 box spaghetti noodles (no substitute, pasta needs to be the thick kind)
• 1 can tomato paste
• Black pepper
• Bacon grease to just cover the bottom of the skillet

Directions:
Cook noodles and drain. Heat the bacon grease and add the noodles and tomato paste. The grease helps the paste coat the pasta. Add black pepper to taste. Serve piping hot with garlic bread.

Modified Recipe:
Ingredients:
• Olive oil
• Chopped celery, garlic, onion and bell pepper (adjust amounts to your own family’s taste)
• Favorite spaghetti sauce as long as there is NO MEAT (or as my friend Deb calls it “the gravy”)
• Pasta

Directions:
Cook pasta (any kind you like, we use bow tie or angel hair). While pasta is cooking heat enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan, add chopped vegetables and let them cook until translucent. Add sauce and cook for about thirty minutes to an hour. Right before serving add pasta to sauce and let heat through. Serve with garlic toast and a salad.

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