Is it possible to be genetically predisposed to certain foods?  I recently saw a Good Morning America story on how if pregnant women ate certain foods, their children (once born) would be more apt to eat that said food.  For instance, they tested babies with peas.  Those babies whose mothers did not eat peas while pregnant, cried and made faces when peas were fed to them.  However, the mothers’ that munched on the vegetable… well, their babies ate them up… at least that’s the point the Good Morning America reporter was trying to make.  Here’s what didn’t make sense about the story though: When feeding the group that was supposed to enjoy the peas, those babies made the same faces and moaning sounds as those that were not supposed to like the peas.  The difference?  Nothing!  If it weren’t for the photographer popping in little baby-thought-bubbles that said, “YUCK!  Mom, what are you feeding me?” or “There’s no way I’m eating that!” or “YUM!  This is great…” or “WOW!  I love those peas!” there would be no way to tell which baby genuinely liked or didn’t like the veggie.  Judging by faces, all babies made the same expressions.  Judging by peas eaten, half the babies on both sides ate the same amount.  Moral of the story: If we go by this report, we are not genetically predisposed to certain foods.  …But I disagree… mainly when it comes to spaghetti.

Spaghetti with All-Pantry Tomato Sauce and Baked Meatballs

I’ve been raised on spaghetti.  For me, spaghetti was something taught — just as much as the importance of chores and responsibility.  See, my daddy’s favorite food is spaghetti.  He craves it, like a pregnant woman craves odd-ball foods… except his craving is always the same: spaghetti… spaghetti… and wait… more spaghetti.

The story goes when my dad was little, he would beg his mom (my grandma, who PS-was featured in “The French Onion Soup Story“) to make her homemade spaghetti.

My grandma’s homemade spaghetti recipe card. You can tell from the sauce stains how often it was used!

In fact, he was so spoiled (an only child, I might mention), whenever his mom made a fish dish, vegetable soup, any beef dish… my dad would instead ask for her spaghetti.  And, because my sweet grandma adores my dad, she would make an entirely second dinner just for one little child.  My daddy told me his spaghetti hunger was so well-known, their next-door-neighbor would invite him over for lunch every single time she made that noodle-and-tomato-sauce dish!  Now despite the fact that this Mrs. Bochin woman had her own two boys, she would open her heart… and plate… up solely for my daddy.  I just asked my dad, “Goodness!  How often did you eat spaghetti?!”  And his answer (said with a common-sense-delivery), “At least twice a week.”  If that didn’t get me laughing (picturing my dad as a child, eating spaghetti from anyone willing to prepare it), this got me: Because my daddy yearned for this dish so much, he told me my grandma would make spaghetti for most Christmas dinners!  Christmas!  Can you imagine that?!  No birds, no beef, no stuffing, no roasted veggies, nada.  They would have spaghetti… and one year, he proudly exclaimed, he ate four plates full of the pasta dish, adding “They were big plates too!”  Other Christmases, his parent’s friends would come over to celebrate together, going to dinner at Shoney’s… where my dad would order… well, you guess it.  Listen to this though — One Shoney’s Christmas night when he was around 10 years old, he ordered… and completely ate… two separate adult spaghetti dishes.  …I would say I’m out of words, but the story doesn’t end there…

My dad said he’s not sure exactly when his spaghetti fixation started, but he guessed around first grade… and when did it end?  It’s safe to say never.  When my mama and daddy met, she tried hard to emulate my grandma’s homemade spaghetti… but as many cooks learn, making a family recipe never turns out exactly the same… which is how a variation of my grandma’s dish came to pass (which I now call my mama’s homemade spaghetti).  For the record, I asked my dad which spaghetti dish he liked more — his mom’s or his wife’s (I know!  I’m treading a fine line by making him answer…), but his instant response: “Both!  I always loved mama’s (my mom’s) spaghetti.”  Great answer, daddy!  *Giggling*  Anyway, back to the story… So my mama and daddy meet, and he apparently proves to her family that he’s a sketti-connoisseur… which is why every Christmas after, my Papa (my mom’s dad) would wrap a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and leave it under the tree for my dad!  This is probably my favorite story; I adore this memory my dad has because my Papa passed  away in November 2002… but even so, I can vividly see him wrapping the special, beloved gift in newspaper, laughing at his witty thought… and then laughing together with my dad as he opened it.  Even today, when my dad talks about this, he laughs and says, “…and I went right into the kitchen to eat it immediately”.

In the end, I’m left whole-heartedly believing people can be genetically predisposed to certain foods, because I live, eat, and breathe spaghetti.  …Maybe I couldn’t have it two times a week or more like my dad, but I most certainly could eat it once a week.  Anyway, when I was unable to locate a bass for my next Alton application, my adoration for spaghetti caused me to skip (yes, skip!) to page 122 to learn the secrets behind the dish I love most.

Episode 25, Season 2: “All-Pantry Tomato Sauce.”  Alton’s clarifies — right off the bat — he uses canned tomatoes… followed by, “some of you are shocked . . . but riddle me this: If you had a nice fresh, ripe, tomato off the vine, full of summer goodness, rich with perfume — perfect — what’s the last thing you would do to it?  If your answer isn’t ‘cook it,’ then you don’t deserve that fat vermillion orb in the first place.”  He then adds that canned tomatoes “define” tomato sauce.  Well Alton, according to my grandma’s recipe card, she too used canned tomatoes, so it’s in my blood to trust you on this.

Alton’s application not only calls for canned tomatoes, but 13 other ingredients!  Does this seem like a crazy amount to anyone else, other than me?

…and even odder is exactly what those ingredients are.  For example: sugar, capers, carrots, and the unforgettable sherry vinegar.  I won’t go into a long story about how finding sherry vinegar is nearly impossible…  Instead, believe me when I say James I searched high and low — at every grocery store and specialty store — only to bump into cooking sherry (which is trickily placed in the vinegar section, but lacks the advertised vinegar).  Finally, after many days of searching… we came across our desired sherry vinegar at *angles humming, clouds parting* Whole Foods.  (*Sigh* What would I do without Whole Foods?!  More on how they saved the day in another coming post…)

Moving on…  First things first with the sauce: Pouring liquids, herbs, and sugar into a saucepan.

Tomato juice, vinegar, wine, sugar, pepper flakes, oregano, and basil

Next, the liquid-mixture gets boiled, then simmers until it’s a syrupy consistency.  Meanwhile, the veggies and garlic (is garlic a veggie?  …Has to be, right?) are diced and placed on a pan to be roasted.

After the veggies roast, Alton tells me to add the tomatoes (which were placed aside because only their juices were added above) along with the capers to the pan… so they can all roast some more.

Once that’s complete, it’s time to broil… until the edges of the tomatoes are brown.  Then, the fun starts…  Alton directs me to pour what ingredients are left into the saucepan…

…and mush everything together (I’m pretty sure that’s not a culinary term).

My well-blended, but slightly chunky tomato sauce

Alton suggested the blend be a little chunky — if meatballs were being used… which gave James and I the brilliant idea to prepare our own meatballs too!  That meant while I was busy making the sauce, James was creating the meatballs, using one of Alton’s online applications: Baked Meatballs.

Now, I know Alton’s meatballs aren’t in the cookbook I’m showcasing and basing my blog (and entire cooking world) on, but I still want to show you some pictures because one, these were complex meatballs; and two, my fiance is adorable and worked hard on them!  So, to the meatballs!…These guys called for another crazy 12 ingredients!  I felt like James and I were preparing an insane meal for multiple families when we placed all ingredients on the counter.  Even crazier, these meatballs are composed of three meats: ground pork, lamb and round (which I believe is from the hind leg?  …Gross… Did I really just investigate where exactly the meat came from?!  …Who am I?!).

And finally… our masterpiece is complete!  Can I just say again how much I love my fiance?  We’re such a great team!

All-Pantry Tomato Sauce with Baked Meatballs
Sadly, I want to say the dish tasted as good as it looks… but that wasn’t the case.  One reason I wasn’t gung-ho about Alton’s tomato sauce was because the veggies were way too crunchy… and too large.  Granted my knife and chopping skills are not up to chef standards, but if an application calls for a simple “dice”, I diced perfectly.  I think maybe a “petite dice” would be better (and yes, “petite dice” is again probably not a culinary term either).  As far as the veggies being too crunchy, this is true.  Alton suggested the first roasting be complete when the onions softened.  Maybe I didn’t let them soften enough, but they were translucent… so I don’t know how much more “soft” they even could get.  …This is when I realized, it has nothing to do with the onions and everything to do with the carrots.  Carrots are thicker and much more hard so the time it takes to make them “soft” is in no way equal to the time it takes to make onions “soft”.  Conclusion: Either roast the carrots first for a longer period of time, then add the rest of the veggies… or enjoy crunchy carrots in tomato sauce.  …Still… There was something else I didn’t like about this meal…  Was it the hint of a twangy, sugary, vinegar taste?  Was it that James makes his own meatballs (from a recipe he created, I may add) which I adore far more than these (he disagrees, by the way)?  …Or was it simply that I love my mom’s spaghetti…?  Sure, I’ve eaten other spaghetti dishes — and enjoyed them — but this one seemed too far from the plate for me to take in.  In fact, I know I wanted my mom’s comfort food — the stick-to-your-ribs, soothing-good kind of spaghetti… but instead, I was battling with way too many textures and tastes.  Alton, you know I love you dearly, but compared to generations of spaghetti raisings, I’m sorry, but my mama’s takes to the top.And speaking of her spaghetti…  As we know, I’m behind on my blogs.  James and I made Alton’s dish awhile ago… which is why I’m surprised by my absent-minded actions right now.  I’m currently blogging while making dinner… and only when plating did I realize I’m about to eat the exact dish I’m writing about.  I shocked myself so much I had to take a picture to prove to myself and you!  I suppose this, too, is subtle proof, in some way, that I truly am genetically predisposed to spaghetti.
My mama’s homemade spaghetti recipe

PS-I’ll leave you now with a song my daddy said he sang in his elementary school.  I had no idea what song this was… but once he told me, there was no room for surprise…
Title: “On Top of Spaghetti”
“On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed!  It rolled off the table and onto the floor, then my poor meatball rolled out of the door!”
My immediate response: “How sad… but at least the spaghetti was saved!”  We both agreed, laughing.

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