07 September 2012

happy first day of school!

When I was growing up (that's not to say that I'm a grown-up,) I lived in a house of many traditions.  We celebrated a lot, were big fans of themed anything, and loved a good family dinner.  Pretty much every night brought the four of us to the table for supper together no matter if it was fish sticks and fries or homemade mac 'n cheese with ham and stewed tomatoes.  But one of my favorite celebrated occasions and one of my favorite meals was always our back to school supper - a bit pot of spaghetti and meatballs.  To this day, the smell of a huge pot of spiced and seasoned tomato sauce is one of my favorites.  It brings back a flood of memories of me and my kid sis doing out homework at the kitchen table, of my mom at the stove stirring a massive pot of delicious, the anticipation of meeting new friends and getting to know new teachers, and the stress of trying to pick out the perfect outfit for the start of a brand new year, a brand new grade!

Well, for me, none of that ever went away.  After high school came college, and then grad school, some substitute teaching and then I landed where I am today.  In a school.  As a school librarian.  And I love it!  Not just because it's pretty much the best job ever (which it is,) but also because it means that I get to keep the tradition of back to school supper alive!  This year, it worked out absolutely perfectly.

A few weeks back, I had a streak of crummy days that left me craving something warm and comforting despite the 90+ degree weather with monsoon-like rain.  After a very wet bike ride to pick up all the ingredients, I was able to whip up a marvelous meal for me and the dude-man.  Then, just a few days before school started up again, he got that very same craving.  Well boy was he in luck!  I broke out the frozen leftovers, added some fresh ingredients, tossed it all with fresh, curly spaghetti (I like the long, curly pasta noodles because it looks like my hair,) and some spicy sausage from Graham Ave. Meats and the tradition continued.  Not only did it continue, but it spread to a new family.  Honey's brother is taking classes again this semester and, though our first days did not match up on the calendar, I invited him over to relish in the new school year with us!  It was delicious and perfect and the best way to energize for the next day's new batch of kiddies.

Thank goodness I had all the carb-tastic energy stored up because this year's group of kiddies is a doozy!  But they're also smart, brilliant and amazing and I can't wait to work with them all and get book clubs started again and help them prepare for the great world beyond... college.  But no matter how many batches of students I watch graduate, I will continue to have a first day of school and a traditional back to school supper.  And what makes this longstanding tradition even better is the fact that what started out as my mom's tomato sauce recipe has now become completely my own.  Each year brings a little twist or an extra pinch of ingredients that make it hearty and wholesome and all mine!  That's truly one of my favorite things about traditions, how they naturally evolve.  Good luck learning about that in any of your classes, kids!

just like mom's but even better homemade tomato sauce
ingredients (the measurements are loose, everything is pretty much all to taste)
1 large can pureed tomatoes
1 tiny can tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
6 - 12 fresh campari or roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 - 3 roasted red peppers, diced (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
dash of very course salt
healthy heaps of black pepper and crushed red pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped
lots of oregano
loads of fresh basil
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and let simmer for hours.  If you're making meatballs, pan fry them first to maintain the shape and then let them finish off cooking in the sauce - it makes both the sauce and the meatballs taste that much better!

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