As a child, my mom never made spaghetti. Sometimes she'd buy the canned Franco American for a quick lunch. We'd cut it all up in spoon-sized pieces before eating it. The closest we came to anything resembling homemade spaghetti, was chunked-up fried hamburger meat loaded with ketchup and dumped over rice. At thirteen, it was pretty good eating. I didn't have genuine spaghetti till I got married and my husband's grandmother, Lena Lavorgna, made a batch on my first visit to New England. It was at that dinner table I first learned to twirl spaghetti by picking up a couple of strands of pasta and twisting it against a spoon. It was an art to complete that task without stray pieces dangling like little worms. I loved my husband's Nana's spaghetti. I also loved my husband's mother's sauce. After all, she learned how to make it from her mother.
Mom, as I called her from the beginning of my marriage, showed me how to make the homemade Lavorgna Italian-style spaghetti sauce with meatballs. Not that Ragu, Prego, Classico, dressed up ketchup you purchase in the stores. No, no. My mother-in-law taught me how to mince onions so tiny that you'd think they were crushed powder once cooked down in her sauce. She taught me how to mix up perfectly round meatballs and slowly brown them in the large iron skillet which would welcome her sauce to the party. I truly believe the flavor from the iron skillet is what created the strength and body of her sauce, too. I tried and tried to perfect their sauces, but simply couldn't get the right flavor, or consistency--no matter how many times I watched them and followed their recipes. Even so, I still prefer mine to store-bought or Olive Garden's. We should have bottled the Lavorgna recipe and we would have made millions.
But money's not everything.
There's so many memories of times spent with my husband's Nana and his mother that I treasure far above any monetary gain in life. I am grateful, very grateful for the lessons I learned from my mother-in-law. She taught me how to strip floors of wax build-up, too. Today, I can't even make a bed without remembering how she taught me to make hospital corners when tucking in the sheets. Didn't know how to do laundry, either. You see, I was only seventeen when I stole her eldest son's heart and married him. My step-mother didn't spend much time teaching me homemaking skills. Most everything I knew, I learned from my 4-H leader, Mrs. Keys--including how to present my prize-winning chicken salad and tomato soup cake (although, the cake was my step-mother's recipe).
As I look back, I find it amazing how much my mother-in-law taught me through the years. She introduced me to porkroast and how to make gravy, New England boiled dinners and egg-salad. Gosh, I can't remember all she taught me. I could barely boil eggs in water when hubby and I married. I owe a lot to her... not only for what she taught me, but for what she taught her son. If not for her, I wouldn't have such a marvelous husband who honors me and loves me beyond any human being on earth. What a blessing it is to ponder these things this Mother's Day Weekend.