On pots and sauce

The Wife has The Kid and our next door neighbor’s daughter playing in the front room. I’m in the kitchen, one ear on Patriot Games and another listening to the stories from the 20-quart stock pot on my stove.

I don’t remember how I acquired it, but about seven or eight years ago I came into the possession of a yellowing RevereWare box. Like Corning/Pyrex, Oneida silver and Syracuse China, Revere once made its world-renowned cookware in Upstate New York. My best guess is that about 30 or 40 years ago, my grandmother acquired the copper-bottomed, stainless steel pot that sits on my stovetop. The yellowing box bore the details of its contents as well as the name “Concetta Mancini,” written in the cursive scrawl resembling the handwriting of so many others from that era.

My grandmother would finally succumb to Alzheimer’s after a nearly ten-year fight in 1999. Sometime after I was married, this pan (as well as her 16-quart stock pot) landed in my collection.

The red tomato sauce pops away on the stove in the pan, much like it did on Mary Street when I was a child. It has fed three generations of my family, now going on four (assuming The Kid broadens her palate one day). Its face shows the reflection of my daughter hopping around the kitchen with her friend, as it did when my cousins and I would play in Grandma’s kitchen as kids. The scratches and discoloration mirror our own respective journeys, but the bonds of family, like the reinforced walls of the pan, is strong.


Inside of that pot is a batch of tomato sauce. There’s no book or recipe card near the stove. There’s a simple proportion I follow — two cans of crushed tomatoes to one can of tomato paste — but otherwise, it’s completely by taste. I prefer a vegetarian marinara-style sauce, but a little thicker. The ingredients are simple: tomatoes, dry red wine, sugar, salt, parsley, basil, onion, garlic, vegetable stock, olive oil. The amounts are always based on the size of the batch and adjusted based on taste.

Tomato sauce resembles the language of its origin. In Italy, dialects vary from village to village and house to house, and each family’s sauce is as diverse. My family’s was always made with beef short ribs; my wife’s was always made with pork. I used to make mine with pork and veal, but have since gone vegetarian. The flavors of the fruit and herbs are first and foremost here.

It’s my fingerprint, but carried in a vessel that spans generations.


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