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Bolognese should have been a sure-fire solution

LISA SMITH MOLINARI

By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: May 21, 2020

Judging from the bright sunlight that glowed through my closed eyelids, it was a beautiful morning. But I couldn’t get up and face another day of this unending monotony. I pulled the pillow over my face and yearned for sleep to deliver me.

An hour later, I’d given up. I made the bed, decided it wasn’t worth showering, dressed in spandex again, brushed my teeth because I wasn’t ready to completely give up on hygiene, and sat sipping coffee in the kitchen.

I was bottoming out. Throughout the shutdown, my attitude had been surprisingly positive. At first, I was downright happy. Our college kids were home. My husband, Francis, wasn’t commuting to New York City anymore. We were eating meals together, playing games, calling friends, cooking out, going on long walks.

Even Zoom meetings seemed fun.

Three months in, I would have chosen a stick in my eye over another Zoom meeting. The jokes about gray roots and quarantinis weren’t funny anymore. Francis’ work-from-home schedule had given me new appreciation for those wonderful nights when I was by myself on the couch with the TV clicker while he was in the city. The kids were acting like our house was a free bed and breakfast and I their scullery maid. The daily walks had become so repetitive, I had taken to peering shamelessly into neighbors’ windows just to fight boredom. Our house, which had once seemed like our cozy refuge from the rest of the world, felt more like a prison each passing day.

Even the coffee didn’t taste good anymore.

I sighed desperately. I pulled out my tattered to-do list, and scratched my pen through items on the list to feel like I’d accomplished something. Do laundry. Scratch. Buy groceries. Scratch. Plant tomatoes. Scratch.

I added enough new items to occupy another day in captivity. Vacuum upstairs. Mop kitchen. Spray bug killer in basement. Plan dinner.

I got up to look for ingredients for our evening meal. The sight of the open refrigerator ignited a tiny spark within me. An idea was lighting the dark recesses of my stagnant mind.

“My bolognese!” I thought, more excited than I’d been in weeks. Quickly, I grabbed ground pork and beef, carrots, celery, onion, milk and cans of tomatoes. My tattered recipe card was on a shelf in the room we call my “office” — the unheated space that was actually our pantry.

By the time the kids emerged from their bedrooms mid-morning, the aroma of sauteing onions and browning meat was wafting through the house. Anna called down the kitchen stairs, “Mom, what’s that smell?”

“Bolognese,” I replied, stirring in a cup of dry wine.

“Yes!” she said.

“There it is,” I thought. That whoosh of warm feeling I was looking for, to reignite my love for my family and my maternal motivation to nurture them through the crisis.

The uncovered pot bubbled and hissed all day, thickening, releasing steam and filling the air with much-needed anticipation for good things to come.

About an hour before dinner, Francis appeared from his third-floor home office. “Hey Hon, what’s for din ...,” a package in the open refrigerator caught his eye, “Italian sausages? Is that what we’re having for dinner?”

“No Hon, look here,” I gestured to the pot of home-cooked goodness on the stove, “I made my bolognese.” I smiled coyly, expecting another excited reaction.

“But, but ...” he stuttered for a few painful seconds, his eyes darting to his favorite food in the world — sausages — before blurting, “you could make those sausages, too.”

All my rekindled hopes, warm thoughts and nurturing feelings were sucked away. I had thought the bolognese would save me. Save our family. Save humanity.

I was wrong.

On our walk the following day, I stopped peering in windows long enough to explain to Francis why the bolognese had been important to me. Surprisingly, he understood. However, I hadn’t realized that Francis sought salvation, too, until he added, “So ... will you cook those sausages tonight?”

Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: themeatandpotatoesoflife.com
Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@googlemail.com