(by Evie Hirschhorn)
Life with my mother was generally a combat zone for me, but not in the kitchen—the main reason being that Audrey didn’t know there was such a thing. At our New York City apartment, the kitchen was run by Cleo, the cook and “bakeress,” and a white-gloved server whose name I do not recall. I did not attend the dinners prepared by Cleo and served in the formal dining room. I ate in my huge bedroom at a low round table with my brother and my beautiful nanny, Virtue. I credit her with any ability I have to love and create warmth around me.
My mother simply hated to stay home, hated anything connected with nesting or caretaking. She never stepped into the kitchen. She ran the community. Led the national Girl Scout organization and the local rape treatment center. She gave her soul to people in the community and was loved by them in return. Children and grandchildren? Not so much. My brother said she should have been president of the United States, not a mother.
When our family moved to Florida, the staff shrunk and the customs changed. We had Eva, the cook, and we all ate together. If we did not eat something that was served, we would never see it again, so my brother and I flushed a lot of food down the toilet, destroying the evidence. Now that the kitchen seemed more accessible, it became a curiosity to me, but the curiosity was quickly halted with Eva slapping my wrist any time I attempted to participate in culinary activities.
The deal was: Audrey gave the orders, Eva did the cooking, and I ate (occasionally).
Fast forward to college and marriage. (I did them at the same time). I took recipes from Eva, bought cookbooks, and cooked my heart out. I’d bake a cake a day. My husband would eat a cake a day. I cooked and baked his way to a quick 50 extra pounds.
Through the years, cooking became my passion. I create art in my kitchen, and I entertain a lot. I cooked all the time for my mom—all holidays and birthdays. I was a model daughter because I felt it was the right thing to do. We were never close (I actually always called her by her first name), but my behavior was exemplary. She was a fan of my cooking, and spread the word too, telling everyone how creative and talented I was.
But “eat, darling, eat” is now my mantra with my grandchildren, who want to cook with me the second I walk in the door. We make cakes decorated like bugs and "gagaroni" (I’m Gaga). We make everything from slutty brownies (obscenely decadent) to cauliflower pizza crust. The kitchen is now a wonderful place for creating memories. I am certain that long after I am gone, these kitchen capers and I will live on through the lives of Sam, Charlie, and Ryan.
Evie Hirschhorn lives in Coconut Grove, Florida. She runs "Evelines," a service that provides personal poetry for all occasions, and Creative Eats, providing large decorative vegetable platters for catering companies and private individuals.
2 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
5 16-oz. jars or cans of tomato sauce, marinara sauce, or diced tomatoes
6 oz. can of tomato paste
tomato paste can filled with water
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. tube-shaped pasta
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Put olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, and sauté garlic and onion until browned.
Add all tomato products, water, and brown sugar.
Simmer over low heat until thickened, 20 - 30 minutes.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté ground beef, breaking it up, until browned.
Drain and add beef to tomato sauce.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain and place pasta in a 9-inch square baking dish.
Add meat sauce to cover pasta but not drown it. (There will be leftover sauce, which can be frozen for another use.)
Mix in cheese, reserving some to sprinkle on top.
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Bake until crispy on top, about 30 minutes.