Yesterday I celebrated one of the last hot days of summer by participating in a timeless Italian tradition: the making of the sauce. I’m not talking about grabbing a can of San Marzano tomatoes and sticking your immersion blender into your Grandmother’s old pot. I’m talking about three generations of women standing outside for hours under a hot sun while triple-washing then cooking then jarring fifteen bushels of plum tomatoes.
My morning began with a text message from my friend down the block: “FYI: doing sauce today. Stop by.” I had been debating whether to do some work or blow it off for a final beach day, but once this text came through all other thoughts disappeared and I rushed to get out the door and join my friend at her family’s house several towns away. This family originally hails from a small town in Italy many miles south of Salerno. I’ve had the pleasure of eating their homemade sauce and drinking their homemade wine, all prepared exactly the way they did it before they decided to move to America, and several times I offered to help out with the new harvest. Thank goodness they remembered to call me because what I had the privilege of experiencing is something most people don’t get to do (or very often have to pay for).
There’s nothing particularly complicated in the process yet I was thrilled that they would let me, a non-Italian outsider, have a hand in every aspect of production. It being a weekday, they were short-staffed as several women of the family had to stay at work and a few were disqualified due to… how shall I say this… their female cycle, which would most certainly ruin the sauce according to the Old Tradition! I kept thinking I was going to mess up the recipe and of course my friend teased that if anything tasted different I was sure to be the person blamed!
Cue the making of the sauce, and my photo montage of the process.
What a thoroughly enjoyable, communal experience that the anthropology major in me will never forget. Although I have to go back to get some jars of the finished product, I was given a jar of “raw” sauce to take home with me and eat immediately. Just an hour ago I threw it into a pot with some onions, garlic, spices and red wine and it’s on a low bubble right now, to be featured on tonight’s dinner menu. I’ll close my eyes at that first taste and dream of Italy…