For some time now, Oscar Awards night has become one of our annual holiday traditions. As with any holiday, there is the expectation that there are certain foods associated with its celebration. It is obvious that turkey, mashed potatoes and some form of cranberries show up at the Thanksgiving table. On Christmas Eve, the offering is roast beef served up with minted peas. Halloween requires chili and cinnamon rolls to warm chilled bodies after making the rounds sparsely clad in thin yet bizarre costumes begging for candy. And at the Oscars? Spaghetti makes a command performance.
This might sound odd, but it goes like this. Holidays and their associated foods make you feel good. It all falls under that “warm fuzzy” label. Anything that reappears on an annual basis will do that, because the dish serves up memories of who did what last year on that particular holiday, inspiring comments such as, “Hey! Don’t you remember what Uncle Phil did with the cranberry sauce three years ago? Boy that was weird!” Or something along those lines.
Therefore, it has been a natural for me to make a good hearty spaghetti sauce for Oscar viewing. Does it make sense? Clearly, yes. You see, spaghetti is one of those “feel good” meals, hands down. I’d have to say that it gets my number one vote. And because we are often either moving from one house to another, or have recently moved and are in the throes of remodeling during Oscar season, we are in dire need of anything that will make us “feel good.”
Moving homes and remodeling are right up there on the stress-o-meter, I’d say. Most people I know would agree. There is not much worse than feeling out of place and wondering where in the world did you put the following: (please pick one)
(a) box of large pots
(b) clothing box containing hats and gloves/swimsuits and snorkeling equipment (seasonal)
(c) your son’s notebook containing the most recent Chemistry assignment
(d) the remote control to the TV
Believe it or not, I have managed to lose all of the above. Actually, I manage to lose quite a lot of things, but that’s a whole other story.
If we aren’t moving, we are remodeling some part of the house that is guaranteed to make the entire family feel like they are in a permanent whiteout of drywall dust, doomed to inhale noxious paint fumes until the next decade. The truth is, at our house, if we’re not remodeling something, life isn’t normal. Remodeling or moving places everyone on edge; a warm bowl of spaghetti fits the bill and generally settles us all down.
Generally. I say this with caution, because a big bowl of spaghetti can unwittingly, and unintentionally create havoc. Five years ago we were, as usual, in the middle of a new project, remodeling the basement. The ideas were full of promise: an enormous theater with 120 inch screen, separate rec room with pool table and an additional television for those with quirky tastes who didn’t enjoy the Oscars’ vanity extravaganza and narcissicist-fest, and state-of-the-art touch screens so viewers could pick from a plethora of entertainment categories. And remote controls. This might not sound all that high tech; these days there are remote controls to operate just about anything you need, except one that reminds your husband to take out the trash. Unless you count a cattle prod, but I’m guessing that’s not in the realm of fairness. However, the entire system proved a lot to handle.
Because the Oscars must be viewed on a television screen of some sort, remodeling the basement during this “holiday” presented an enormous technicality: we had no workable tv, and no “screen.” Actually, nothing was operable. The entire basement was under attack, embued with layers of debris and stripped down to bare concrete walls. Seating was limited to the old couch that no one much cared if it were caked with dust, but breathing was difficult, and tempers were ready to flare. The remote possibility (I do not pun here, this is serious) that there would be no Oscars to view had already caused me to threaten a cooking blockade. No Oscars, no dinner. Ever.
Dr. K assured me he had a plan. As always, whenever he assures me he has everything all figured out, I worry. The plan was this: he would tape up a gigantic piece of blank newspaper on the wall where the mind-boggling canvas screen would reside, some day, whenever he figured out how to stretch the wonder material he’d ordered from someplace out in California across a wooden frame he’d yet to build. In the meantime, we could watch the Oscars on newsprint taped together; the new projector would be delicately and precariously balanced on the paint shelf of the stepladder. All fine and good, as long as nobody sneezed.
Operation of the remote control was, as you might imagine, tricky. To adjust the volume (the only option because changing the channel was not allowed,) the operator had to stand up, face away from the screen, point and shoot, hoping to aim the red laser beam in the general (darkened) direction of the upper regions of the ladder. Not impossible, but a technical challenge.
Which is fine, except when you’ve got teenagers. With teenagers comes the addition of general snarkiness, raging hormones, anger management issues (on the part of the parents), and spaghetti. Why spaghetti? I can answer in one fell swoop.
Teenagers have amazing hearing; parents don’t. A kids’ hearing is selective, usually selecting not to hear whatever it is you would like them to know; they’re experts at tuning the adult out. My theory is that due to this selectivity, kids operate on a “low” setting, unless they’re listening to their iPods. Those they’ll crank up so high that a casual bystander can hear the songs leaking out of their earpieces. But, they don’t need to listen to the Oscars on high volume. I do. My hearing isn’t what it used to be. It’s probably been damaged from listening to them whine.
Scenario that night went like this:
Mom: Please turn it up; I can’t hear what Harrison Ford is saying.
Kid #1: It’s not important, mom. Who cares what he’s talking about. It’s just the stupid Oscars.
Mom: For starters, they’re not stupid. And second, it’s Harrison Ford. I want to hear every syllable.
(repeat conversation several times; you may change award presenter to suit your fancy. . .)
I could continue this conversation, but suffice to say, next up was a loud squabble over the merits of spending a minimum of three hours watching movie snippets when we didn’t even have time to watch one of the Best Picture nominees. The remote, which had been in Dr. K’s sole possession due to difficulty of operation as explained above, entered a new realm as he created a great new Olympic-worthy spectator sport: remote-control skipping. Not as in throwing. That would be out of line, and requires little skill. Skipping, as in “can you toss the remote control past your son over to your wife on the opposite end of the couch without skimming it across your son’s bowl of spaghetti sauce and splashing it all over the couch and wall nearby?
The answer was a definite “no.” Which was why I was ecstatic that we hadn’t chosen the new wall paint color yet.
Add Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Peppers to your holiday favorites!
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