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To Die With Dignity

(by Lesley Martin)

It wasn’t the quintessential English Christmas dinner that took pride of place in my mother’s handwritten recipe book, but a simple spaghetti Bolognese, so classically easy and satisfying that it became “The One”–the recipe that was handed down. We grew up with it, in New Zealand, a long way from our roots in Bedfordshire. It was a strange companion to our life—not English, not Antipodean, not even quite Italian, but so anticipated and savored that it became our meal.

Spag Bol nourished us through our teenage years of fast and furious sports; it was the meal served the night before those celebratory events that mark the passing of our lives, and it was the meal to comfort us when woe befell. It was spicy and juicy and messy and fulfilling and oh-so-funny when you ate it twirled around your fork, sucked on it loudly, and splattered everyone around you. It was meant to be shared and enjoyed and worn, and was the great leveler in a roomful of new friends. My mother’s recipe was better than any other, but we never did learn the secret ingredient. As my two sons grew, they went so far as to attempt to start their own recipe (with much to learn, I might add).