i grew up with an american father in the military and a confused irish emigré mother (she considers herself british...don't ask.) my dad came from a real meat-and-potatoes philadelphia family and my mother grew up eating shepherd's pie, bangers and mash and mushy peas, and whatever the hell else was served in the family homes of mid-20th century leeds. i guess they had kind of similar food experiences and, as a result, so did my brother and i. my favorite dinners were always a little against the grain although they weren't particularly exotic, even by the standards of the 1970s. my mom made a kickass taco casserole and i know my birthday meal was chicken cacciatore for a couple of years running, when i was in elementary school.
the all-time title holder in the competitive dinner table world, however, was none other than spaghetti. those seductive tendrils of carbohydrate splendor wrapped themselves around my little culinary heart, never to be rent away. the meal always played out in pretty much the same way. i'd get a small plate of noodles served with just butter, salt, and dusting of parmesan cheese. (truth be told, that was always my favorite way to eat it - no muss, no fuss, pure pasta perfection.) then i'd have another serving with my mom's meat sauce, which i rarely finished. i developed eyes that were bigger than my stomach pretty early on, i guess.
i guess my mom had kind of a cyclic menu planning thing going, because we used to have a particular meal on the same night every week. i remember my dad saying how one of his pilot buddies used to come over and say, "oh, you're having spaghetti? it must be monday!" i think my mom got kind of offended by that, which i can understand, because what the fuck with criticizing your friend's wife's cooking habits? but that whole time seems like it was kind of a boy's world and, well, we were living on a military base and all. you get the picture.
i don't know if my dad minded that we had the same thing on the same night every week, but i tend to think he didn't because he was a total creature of habit and also not just a little bit obsessive. he died seven years ago last month and not long after he did, i found an index card with a printed table and some handwritten notes on it in a box of tea bags in my parents' cupboard. he was experimenting with tea-sugar-lemon ratios to find the perfect balance for iced tea. i had to laugh because it was quintesssentially him, always wanting everything just so, all scientifical and whatnot.
my father and i both made a lot of mistakes in our relationship, both said and did awful, hurtful things to each other - some intentional, some not. but we finally got our shit straightened out, separately, and for the last 5 years of his life, we were able to relate like a father and daughter should. even better still, we cultivated an incredible friendship together.
my mom always says we had such a hard time with each other because we were so much alike. i used to really resent that idea, but now it fills me with this crazy pride, so strong and beyond measure.
anyway, it's monday, and even though i had whole wheat farfalle instead of spaghetti for dinner, the combination of the food and the plate i ate from brought all these thoughts of my dad rushing back to me. i still miss him so hard.