> The clock ticked ever so slowly during eighth period. So slowly, in fact, when I looked up from my desk I counted two student sleepers, four doodlers, one drooler and five day-dreamers. I hadn’t even noticed I had lost their attention. The fortunate (or unfortunate, depending upon how you look at it) reason for that is that I was less engaged in Macbeth’s dreary plight of murder and pillage than I was with two, beautifully green, edible bouquets in my veggie drawer beckoning me home. I bought artichokes at the first sight of spring-much like normal women purchase flip-flops- and my mind continuously wandered like an unfaithful lover to the scent of imported Brenta cheese and freshly chopped garlic.
This may or may not surprise you, considering only a few, short years ago, I was neither Italian, nor a cook. I have since claimed both, which, according to me, is completely within my rights after struggling long and hard as the only Vanderberg growing up on a block full of Tony DiVencenzos.
I’ve wanted to be an Italian my whole life. Please, do not take this to mean that I am not aware or proud of my own heritage- Florence Nightingale and I are distant cousins, didja know?-but it doesn’t change the fact that my classmates in the little town in which I was raised couldn’t point out a potato unless you artfully described the wort-like spud used to delicately craft their beloved gnocci. To make matters worse, I wasn’t even Catholic. No pasta bolognese OR first holy communion? What was this, a conspiracy? Who hates the Dutch kid? Hands up!
I walked through life an outcast- made to lurk surreptitiously in doorways to catch the scent of stewed tomatoes wafting on the breeze. Destined to forever order pizza from one of the Tony’s who would not be coerced to give out his great-great-great grandmother’s secret spice to cooking time ratio.
Until I married.
Don’t let the name fool you.
Do you know what his mother’s maiden name is?
It took more than several attempts, frantic late night phone calls to my ever-so-patient new mother-in-law and hundreds of tablespoons of sugar to balance the salt from my tears in my inedible tomato gravy to finally find my sweet spot in the kitchen.
Now, with the increasingly warm smell of bubbling artichoke gurgling happily on the stove, I can put my feet up, say a Hail Mary and scribble out a list of different yeasts to try out for some decent Paesano bread (you just can’t find a good one in the store anymore these days) and what heirloom tomato seeds to purchase for the spring garden.
Just like any decent I-Talian would do.