Tomato sauce
Image by Aelle via Flickr

Someone’s roof (not ours!) blew off in the high winds on Kodiak  yesterday, we had no internet, phone or cable. So here’s  Short Story Tuesday on Wednesday! I’m starting a new series of flash fiction stories today.

[Click here to learn more about our Alaskan island.]

RECIPE STORIES: Spaghetti Sauce

By Voni Harris


How embarrassing that her fiancée had announced to his family that she didn’t know how to cook except to open a box or a can. Kara kept reminding herself she liked Brad’s mother, red-checked apron, expectant smile, and all.

“First thing we’re going to learn is spaghetti sauce,” Betty announced.

“Spaghetti? At 9 o’clock in the morning?”

“Well, of course, dear. Good spaghetti sauce takes all day.” She grabbed Kara into a big hug. “I want all day with my daughter-in-law-to-be.”

Kara gulped and made a mental note to call her boss after a while. “All day?” she asked.

“You didn’t think we were going to open a jar of spaghetti sauce, did you?”

Well, yes. I’d hoped. She flashed Betty a nervous grin.

“Grab those Romas over there.”

Side-by-side, they boiled and peeled the tomatoes, chopped onions, cleaned mushrooms, crushed garlic. Kara barely kept up, mimicking Betty’s every movement as they filled the large pot on the stove item by item.

Then came the magic.

Betty walked over to the kitchen window, where she had some plants growing.

She took a sprig off one and said, “Here, taste this.”

Kara took the plant. “Taste?”

Betty took a tiny leaf off her sprig, rolled it gently between her thumb and forefinger, and held it to her nose. “Mmm…I love oregano.” Then she popped it in her mouth.

Kara followed suit, and the earthy flavor burst on her tongue. “Wow,” she exclaimed. “And to think I always used dried oregano from the store.”

Betty smiled knowingly. “First taste your sauce,” she directed, and Kara obeyed.

“It tastes okay. Fresh.”

“Now let’s chop up some oregano and add it in.”

Kara imitated the way her mother-in-law stripped the oregano leaves and chopped them on the cutting board, then slipped them into the sauce.

“Now taste it,” Betty urged.

Kara couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across her face.

Basil followed, then pepper, salt, and even a small amount of red pepper flakes. Kara took an opportunity to taste after each addition, as the pot of tomatoes transformed into a sauce.

“It’s like layers of flavor,” she said. “But how do you know how much of each to put in?”

“You taste, dear,” Betty responded. “That’s what helps you balance the rich flavors of the fresh herbs. No matter what you’re cooking, you taste as you go. Kind of like you and Brad, and how you two will keep dating even after you’re married, to keep things balanced.”

Suddenly Betty clapped in excitement. “I have something for you, Kara.” She stepped out onto the porch and came back with a window box full of basil, oregano and thyme. “For your own kitchen,” she said.

“I was dreading the thought of using store-bought after this,” Kara said. “Thank you so much!”

“Herbs are easy to take care of. Just don’t overwater.”

“I won’t,” Kara said, crushing a basil leaf in her hand to inhale its intriguing scent. “What’s next?”

“Oh, we’re done.”

“Done? I thought you said it would take all day.”

“The sauce will simmer all day; I believe that’s what brings out the homemade flavor in it. We’ll let it simmer away and do its thing.” She cocked an eyebrow, her eyes twinkled. “In the meantime, I have a photo album featuring my son, which I’ve been saving for this occasion. Wanna see it?”

Did she ever!

(Tune in tomorrow for a marinara sauce recipe!)

Blessings, Voni