This weekend one of my projects, besides the continent of laundry that has piled up, is assembling a new portable, adjustable-height basketball hoop. As I unpacked the box and saw all of the little parts, big parts, and list of tools I would need, I thought of my dad.
Now, a do-it-yourself type of task around the house, i.e., replacing a kitchen faucet, hooking up the stereo or any kind of “adult assembly required” product which looks so good in the store displayed (fully assembled) under bright lights with a sale sticker, comes packaged in a very large box, its many components neatly styro-foamed, twist-tied and plastic-baggied; well, these projects — as anyone with a practical, do-it-yourselfer, Italian-American father knows — require A LOT OF SWEARING. The kind of swearing you usually have to pray about in church the next day.
This basketball hoop was going to need some swearing before it got done. And it’s more fun when you have someone to help you swear about it. You know, one of you reads the 300 pages of poorly written instructions, the other one misinterprets what you say, you argue about which thingamajiggy goes where, swear some more, at some point the manual gets thrown across the room, that little vein pops out in your dad’s forehead (this also applies to Irish fathers), and three hours later you have something which almost resembles the picture on the box, shrug your shoulders, say, “Well, at least it’s done,” and go have a beer.
And in this time your mom/stepmom got all the laundry done, made a whole batch of cookies and cleaned up the kitchen. She’s just thankful you kept him out of her hair for the day.
Unfortunately, my dad lives a thousand miles away. So in this case, I call him, tell him I need him to help me with the tools and the swearing, and we have a good laugh. Then comes the inevitable question:
“What’re you having for dinner?”
There’s something about moving away from home. Yeah, you miss your family, friends and different places. You talk about the weather. But it always comes back to food.
I said, “That’s the other reason I was calling about.” Midwesterners tend to end sentences with prepositions. We know it’s wrong. We’re rebels without causes.
“I’ve got two pounds of ground beef thawed out, and I have no idea what to make,”
I mentioned that I was thinking of meatballs, but not spaghetti-and-meatballs, something different. My stepmom suggested Swedish meatballs, and proceeded to read me the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Meatballs fried in butter with a cream gravy. What’s not to like?
I looked up the recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which just happens to be my Grandma’s copy, from the late ’50’s. Funny how they stick that “New” title on every year. So you’ll see a twenty year old version at a garage sale, and somehow think it’s New? But my “New” cookbook didn’t have the same version as my stepmom’s “New” cookbook, so I did the next best thing: Google.
Thank you, Alton Brown. The meatballs were delicious!
What food do you miss from back home, and does your family swear as much as mine? (In my dad’s defense, his language isn’t half as bad as mine!)