“I never said nothin’ like that.” Arthur’s back arched over the large pot on the stove as he stirred methodically. The perpetual cowlick on top of his head slightly waved.
“Yes, you did! You said that you learned to make spaghetti in Sicily during the war!” Laney blurted, her blue eyes flashing like sparklers. She must jog her father’s failing memory. Her chin jutted out in challenge and her natural brown curls bobbed as if a separate cheering section.
“Your grandmother taught me to make spaghetti”, Arthur drawled, scraping the sides of the pan while slowing the ladle. He was owner of one of the largest construction companies in the state, but when he stood at the stove in his apron, he was really the boss.
The tantalizing aroma from the kitchen wafted towards Laney as she hung over the back of the couch in the living room. She had watched him prepare the spaghetti often in her twenty years. The sauce, made from a pile of fresh ingredients, would take all day and simmered for hours. In the afternoon, her father formed a ground beef mixture into meatballs, placing them carefully on a pan next to long links of Italian sausage to bake. The meal was reserved for special Saturdays, when God was particularly in the mood to bless.
“They don’t make spaghetti like this in Sicily,” her father continued, his Southern accent becoming more pronounced. He rapped the ladle several times against the pan before laying it in a saucer. “They just plop some ol’ tomato sauce on top of pasta.”
“What about Todd!” Lacy yelped, shifting to sweep her arm across the empty living room. He was too busy downstairs to help, destroying entire colonies of Nordic aliens with quick jabs of his thumbs. “Remember? He couldn’t pronounce Sicily and called it silly. That’s why we call it silly spaghetti!” Laney’s exasperation was ernest.
“They eat it just like we do bread and butter,” Arthur countered with finality. He bent over and disappeared from sight. Sounds of pans being shoved around in a cupboard mixed with his little grunts.
“NO!” Laney wailed inwardly as she slumped. The spaghetti was famous among all her childhood friends. If word of this got out, she would become a laughingstock forever. Too many times down through the years those invited to the special Anderson meal were also served a portion of history. After shoving full bellies away from the table and tromping downstairs to flop on overstuffed couches, they would always beg Lacy to recount the historic tale.
Lacy related how Arthur had served with the Third Infantry Division in Italy during World War II. Laney had seen his Purple Heart herself. She described him trudging the green rolling hills of Sicily, waging war with pockets of Germans in the rural country, probably almost single handedly. Along the way, grateful peasants endowed the soldier with generous portions of hospitality. One of the most treasured, was the very old and very secret recipe for their spaghetti. After the war, he was to cook it for his future family and remember the thankful Italians. The spaghetti was worthy of only such a legend, no disrespect to her grandmother.
Laney had never met her father’s mother who had died when he was only twelve. But Erel Anderson’s black and white portrait hung on her parent’s bedroom wall and often captured Laney’s gaze. The woman had cropped hair, the color of coal, which framed her chiseled features. Erel was full blooded Native American and wore the same stern expression contained on the faces of great Indian chiefs Laney had seen pictured in history books.
No one would believe that this woman created the best Italian meal in America by herself. And also, who would believe that Italians would drop watery tomato sauce on pasta and give it no more honor than a cracker?
Maybe it was a joke. Because of her Dad’s kidding, Laney had in fact believed for years that hummingbirds spun cocoons. He was getting up there in age too, maybe fifty or so. Then what about the bomb that exploded behind him during the war? Perhaps he was traumatized and was starting to show signs of soldier’s syndrome or something. Well, no matter. From now on she had better watch him very closely and record the recipe for herself. Otherwise, the silly spaghetti legend might not be the only thing in danger.
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