Just as I got used to the weird, off-balance silence of having one kid in college, she came back. And Husband. And teenage son (from school, that is.) They all stayed at home one day. And then the next and then the next. Days passed huddling around the television watching the news, hearing panicked-yet-professional reports from newscasters and meteorologist about this catastrophic growing (and staying strong!) storm called Irma:
We were doomed. Florida was going underwater, after everything got blown away to bits, Big Bad Wolf style.
One of my sisters took her dog, got in the car, and headed north. Way north. D.C. I-ain’t-taking-no-chances north. So did 1.3 million other Floridians- the biggest evacuation in the state’s history.
I can’t say I blame them. After all, mandatory evacuations had been issued to 8 counties. Anchormen had taken off their jackets and rolled up their sleeves, quite literally. Our pretty, statuesque meteorologist, Lissette, suddenly looked pail, her lower lip slightly quivered. She mentioned having slept over at the station. She mentioned missing her pretty daughters, the ones she always posted on Instagram wearing matching sundresses. She mentioned her husband putting hurricane shutters OVER their hurricane-proof windows.
I have hurricane-proof windows.
When we remodeled the house sixteen years ago, it was the single most expensive investment. Burly men carried bunker-sturdy panels of double glass while chatting to each other in Italian in between puffs of unfiltered Camels. I remember being impressed by their coordination: the lifting, the walking, the talking, and the smoking. The fact that it was in a Romance language certainly elevated the experience. And the sharp jaws, all lined with stubble before stubble became chic. That seemed part of their uniform.
“You no worry, miss. You and de baby will be so safe with dees now,” Vitto promised. De baby was my soon-to-be-born son, who’d turned my belly into a sphere freak show.
I knew Vitto by name because he was the one always fucking things up.
“Fai attenzione, Vitto!”
“Vitto! Non lasciare cadere il bicchiere, per amore di Dio!”
“Lentamente…lentamente….No più lento, Vitto! No!!!”
Ya, you had to feel a bit sorry for Vitto, really.
But even though he wasn’t as skilled in the hurricane-glass installation business as his brothers (I assumed they were brothers, they all had the same gorgeous eyes) they seemed not minding having him around. He knew the best jokes, or, at least, fool-proof ways to make the others break into unbridled laughter. His English was apparently the most advanced, so aside from encouraging phrases directed at my belly (“is gonna be a stronga boy, eh? Molto forte!”) he also explained the lock mechanisms, the screen system, and other critical information one would need to know in the event of a hurricane.
Like the one barreling towards South Florida now.
It had been a while but I decided to trust Vitto and his brothers. Irmageddon was approaching. I had water. I had batteries. And I had faith in Italian craftsmanship.
It turned out I also had a lot of free time waiting for the storm to make landfall. So I baked. And I cooked.
Peanut butter cookies, brownies, cumin-marinated chicken and orange-infused pork tenderloin. There was also plenty, and I mean plenty, of pasta. That bump Vitto pointed at is now a constantly ravishing fifteen-year old boy. Pasta is a favorite of his and he is quite flexible with what goes in it. Pesto, seafood, bolognese, and vongole are top picks, but for all the Irma craziness, which thankfully only took a few beloved trees, I found comfort in a classic basic spaghetti al pomodoro. Sometimes the sweetest and simplest things are the ones that help make us feel safe, happy and molto forte.
Spaghetti Pomodoro (Pasta in Tomato Sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 16-ounce can of whole tomatoes (Marzano, if you can find)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 4-6 whole basil leaves (you can also use some more for garnish)
- 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- salt, to taste
- 1 lbs. of spaghetti
- 4 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Heat oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir until clear, five minutes.
- Add whole tomatoes and tomato paste, raise heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring.
- Reduce heat to medium/low and add water and basil leaves.
- Partially cover and leave on a slow simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add salt, to taste.
- Remove basil leaves and place in a blender.
- Blend (be sure to hold top of blender!)
- Adjust seasoning and add cream.
- Meanwhile, prepare pasta- boil 4 quarts salted water and cook spaghetti until it is al dente (read package for time.)
- Place pasta in a large bowl and add sauce, mixing thoroughly.
- Serve immediately (you can add additional basil leaves for decoration)
- Serves 4-6 (or one teenage boy)3.1http://culinarycompulsion.com/2017/09/comforted-by-an-italian-classic/