About three times a week, Mom would leave a frozen block of hamburger meat in the sink. Ah, the versatile little things. What would it become? Tacos? Burgers? Quite often the mystery answer was spaghetti.
A pound of hamburger meat, browned. A box of spaghetti, boiled rapidly, then a few strands thrown against the wall to see if they stuck. A jar of Prego, then that same jar filled with water and added to the sauce. (Don't ask me why.) My randomly picky sister would make Mom set aside some of the sauce without meat for her. This is probably the first meal Mom taught me how to make. Besides the usual salad, we'd also have some Wal-mart frozen garlic bread, or, my favorite, hot dog buns spread with Country Crock and sprinkled with garlic salt. (A friend of mine calls this "Okie Toast.")
Homemade spaghetti sauce was hard for me to figure out when I first got married. I knew I didn't want to reach for the Prego, but I wasn't pleased with my results for a while. I wanted to replicate the taste of my childhood, but make it from scratch. It wasn't until college, when I saw a friend browning onions and garlic before she added her meat, that I even realized that you could use something besides the veggies in the jar!
Since then, I've learned to add other flavor enhancers, when I have them on hand- fresh basil, when I have it, and Parmesan cheese rinds, which I stash in the freezer for just such a purpose. I brown the meat first, then use my go-to tomato sauce recipe.
Though these days, my kids request Veggie Spaghetti instead of regular. I will never, never deny them Veggie Spaghetti. I don't have to feel guilty that they refuse to eat the salad I serve with it! And of course, I always make Janna's French Bread to accompany this meal.
I look forward to sharing some of Mom's Sunday dinners with you, when she would choose dishes that would cook all morning when we were at church. Those are the most vivid smells of my childhood.