I hesitate to share my mother’s spaghetti recipe in polite company. When I’ve dared to, New Yorkers – raised on only fresh tomatoes, grated parmesan, and basil – have scoffed, horrified at the sauce: a thick mixture of ground beef, ketchup, vinegar, dijon mustard, and paprika that hugs spaghetti noodles, glues itself to your plate, and makes no apologies for its simple, sweet, tangy body. The recipe must have come from one of my grandmothers, passed down from the Depression years, or maybe from one of those 1950s Betty Crocker cookbooks that featured 12 different recipes for marshmallow-injected Jell-O molds, as no self-respecting gourmet chef these days would throw that mix over noodles and call it dinner. But that spaghetti was my Midwestern family’s favorite, eaten with buttery garlic bread after church, shared with close relatives before playing card games on a Saturday night, or waiting for me on a blue-rimmed plate after evening ballet practice, while I was still in my leotard.
One afternoon at age 7, while sitting on a stool at our kitchen counter in Oklahoma, I asked my mom about heaven: “Will there be spaghetti in heaven, Mom?” I had heard there would be things I liked in heaven. She probably said something noncommittal, but all I could think about was my heaven: eating my mother’s leftover spaghetti out of big ceramic bowls at heaven’s kitchen counter with Jesus.
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