We recently learned that Elizabeth is coming to visit. Sweet, brilliant, older cousin of James, Catherine, Christopher, Meg and Annie. They adore her and she them. As a new-born Elizabeth began her summer journeys down to South Florida. After James was born she was the perfect summer playmate, being four years older AND a girl. Cynthia and she would fly down and stay for a month. Or two. It was most splendid!! They always, ALWAYS stayed at Mom and Dad’s. But come 4:00 p.m. those two girls would be at MY house!! It was hot, damned hot, and respite could be found out back in the cement pond. Well, at least for “the cur-dren”, white-trash talk for “children”. We would get them all greased up with 800 SPF sunscreen while they cried and tried to wiggle away and when we just couldn’t bear it any more sent them outside to the cement pond. Then came our preparations. The Mama’s preparations. In spite of the killer, oppressive heat we had to cover every inch of our flesh with sticky, BAD smelling mosquito repellant. Foreheads, the backs of hands, toes, ears…I mean it. They were huge. You absent-mindedly reached down to pet the dog but it was a really big mosquito. Every inch had to be covered. Then we had to select tunes. Everyday we would deliberate, K.D. Lang’s “Absolute Torch and Twang” or Sarah Vaughan’s “Brazilian Romance”. If it was a good day then K.D. Lang was scorching the outside speakers. BUT. If it had been a bad day, more likely than not, Say-ruh was on. It was 5:00 in the afternoon by then and hotter than blue blazes outside. We’d pour ourselves liquid anesthesia, take it outside, gather our chairs and settle in. K.D. Lang would be crooning “She was a big-boned gal from southern Alberta, you just couldn’t call her small…” and we would be getting in that “don’t move, barely breathe and it’s almost cool. Or at least tolerable” mindset. But James and Elizabeth were just in their element! Happy and shrieking, water splashing everywhere, the curdren were loving their playtime. Cousins have such a bond.
Cynthia and I would sip on our G & T’s, occasionally moving our chairs to miss the tidal wave coming straight for us from the pool. By then the kids were slowing down and getting a little frayed around the edges, if ya catch mah drift. It was time for some frozen sugar recreation. And that’s when the tears, bitterness and recriminations would set in. I’d go in and get the never-ending box of popsicles out of the freezer and bring it out to the pool. “Who wants a popsicle??!!??” And, predictably, it was ALWAYS the same tired response, “I do!! I do!! I CALL THE BLUE ONE!!” Well, guess what? In that big ol’ box there are probably four orange, (yuk.), four green, (that’s even worse.), one red, (okay.), and one prized, coveted BLUE. And just who’s gonna get it? Well, the arms were waving in the pool, the curdren were jumping like little fools…there’s only one. Cynthia would tell me to give it to James and pull Elizabeth aside. Then we had melt down. Big, fat alligator tears would fall out of poor Elizabeth’s eyes and stream down her red, sunburned cheeks. Cynthia would drape her towel over her and hold her tightly saying in her calm, soothing way, “Elizabeth, darling. You’re older than James. Let him have the blue popsicle. You’re older , darling, have the red one.” And poor Elizabeth by that time was angry and red, face all splotchy and swollen from crying. She always responded the same way, “But, Mama. He ALWAYS gets the blue one and you always say he can have it because I’m older and I never, EVER, MAMA, get the blue one!” Sob, sob, hiccup, hiccup. Meanwhile K.D. was just a wailing in the background, “Coyote, coyote, can you tell me why? Every time that moon big moon shines you sit right down and cryyyyy…” Well, who’s cryin’ NOW?? And poor, frustrated Elizabeth would say, “Fine, Mama!!”, with all the anger in her tiny, bony body. Then she’d turn to James and under her breath say, “How’d you like it if I left and went back to New Jersey ??? Tomorrow?? I’m leaving!! And, predictably, James would burst into tears and wail, “Mama!! Elizabeth is leaving us!! She’s leaving!! Tomorrow!! To New Jersey!!” Ugh. Clearly, play time was over…WAY OVER. Cynthia and I would bundle the sobbing, heaving curdren in their beach towels, put the chairs back, grab our worn out, tepid gin and tonics and head into the house. Into the bathtub she’d put them while I rustled up spaghetti with meat sauce, apple slices and organic skim milk to tame the savage beasts. She’d dress and deposit those tired, hungry curdren onto the sofa and pop one of their favorite Disney movies in the DVR, Robinhood or Lady ON The Tramp, as Elizabeth called it!!. We’d quote lines from the movie as we served them their dinners. “Oh, Marion!! What a bonny, wee bunny!”, we’d sing as they munched on their apple slices served on melamine plates. Well, they ain’t fighting over the blue popsicle anymore, nor are they watching Robinhood. But they still laugh at each other and verbally shove each other during a rousing game of Scrabble. They go to concerts and work out together. They support each other in times of disappointment and revel in each other’s accomplishments and achievements. They call each other the “Co-Bro” and “Co-Sis”. And they’ve gotten to that special place where they’ll gladly share the blue popsicle….I think.
The following recipe is a little more sophisticated than what we gave the curdren but it is still a magnificent way to squeeze in more vegetables. I grate zucchini and add it to so many of my dishes, this being one. Grated zucchini and chopped spinach both seem to disappear in this so with a large amount of savory vegetables it packs quite a nutritious punch. If you’re really pressed for time, by all means use frozen chopped onion and bell pepper. I also use a great deal of turkey products. In this dish I use ground turkey and spicy turkey sausage which really isn’t spicy but just well seasoned. Jennie-O brand is great in this dish. When it comes to pasta I’m crazy about the whole grain lines out on the market. Whole wheat pasta is NOT the block of sticky lead it used to be! Use which ever brand strikes your fancy but do try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Quick Meat Sauce (for pasta)
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 package ground turkey
- 1 package turkey sausage
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 large zucchini, grated on large holes of box grater or 1 bag frozen, chopped spinach defrosted with all water squeezed out
- 1 or 2 tablespoons of good oregano
- 1 or 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste, I use organic
- 2 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound pasta of your choice, cooked to al dente stage
- freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
- In a large pot bring olive oil to medium heat and brown ground turkey.
- Take sausage out of casings and brown in pot with ground turkey, breaking up sausage with a spoon.
- Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Stir well.
- Add oregano and tomato paste. Stir well making sure paste is combined.
- Add whole tomatoes and break apart with spoon.
- Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Tear fresh basil leaves and add to pot.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.