Cooking Up an Unusual Friendship
I come by my love of food–cooking and eating it–honestly. When my family dines together, we don’t discuss politics; we talk about what we are going to prepare for the next meal.
So, when my niece was getting married, I did what I love to do–prepared an Italian meal for a gathering of friends and family a few days before the wedding. Several kinds of pasta, salads, and homemade biscotti.
That’s where I met Mary. Mary is 87 years old and learned to cook from competing grandmothers–one from Sicily and one from Milan. I watched nervously as Mary tasted my pasta and nibbled on the biscotti. I knew she would have an opinion.
“Not bad,” she said of my lasagna. “You should have used some anise in the cookies,” she noted about my biscotti.
Mary speaks in a deep voice that sounds as though she smoked a pack a day for 50 years, though I’m not sure that’s true. She raised eight kids–three of her own and five belonging to her second husband, a widower who died shortly after they married, leaving her with children she barely knew. They became hers. She was a professional dancer and ran her own business.
But mostly she cooked.
Since that day, Mary has showed me how to make manicotti, chicken vesuvio, and red sauce using pork neck bones. Most importantly, she showed me how to find joy, patience, and love through cooking.
“You can’t rush the gravy,” she said. “Relax and wait until the foam is gone. It will tell you when it’s ready.”
So while we wait for the foam to disappear and the meatballs to finish cooking, we eat the neck bones with our fingers and talk about life.
With Mary, I find peace.
Kristine McLain is a retired marketing and legislative affairs professional in Denver where she lives with her husband. She has four grown children and eight grandchildren. You can read more about Kristine’s cooking on her blog Simply Cooking Simply.
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