If you caught this column last week, you might remember that it was about being in survival mode. Every now and then our waves of busyness collide and our peaceful little family barely has clean socks to wear and hasn’t had a fresh vegetable in days. It takes all the spare time and energy I have just to provide them with the basics of food, clothing, and cleanliness, not to mention getting to 4,329 extra curricular activities on time.
Keeping that in mind, my grandparents who are pretty elderly are finding their days more and more numbered. For that reason I can’t help but keep them always on my mind and in my heart, and because they are such colorful people, in my mouth.
I have no idea who Joe Goolegooza and Steve Kitzock are, but my entire life their names have been tossed around. Where are you going, Grampa? Steve Kitzock’s house. Who gave you that hat, Grampa? Joe Goolegooza. The fictional names became an answer for everything, and so it is with great pleasure that I pass on the tradition to my own kids. Who left the giant mess on the kitchen table? Surely it was Steve and Joe.
My Grandma has plenty of specialties of her own, being a tremendous cook. One of her famous recipes was for Slumgooey. We ate this tomato, noodle, and beef casserole my entire life until I married my husband and his mother set down a family dinner on the table.
“Slumgooey!” I said.
“Johnny Marzetti!” they answered.
It seems that most of the world has a different name for the comfort casserole of my youth.
And so it follows, if you haven’t given up on this story yet, that this week while in survival mode, I needed to make dinner. The cupboard was nearly bare, so I scrounged for anything I could. I had noodles. I had beef. I had tomato sauce. I had no recipe, so instead of calling it something official, I said, “kids! We’re having Joe Goolegooza tonight!”
I boiled the noodles. I cooked the beef. We were actually going to have a hot, family meal! I went to grab the tomato sauce, and froze dead in my tracks. It wasn’t there. In fact, it was at school for a book report project of my son.
You know what they say about when life gives you lemons? Sometimes you don't make lemonade. Sometimes you just open up a jar of salsa because it's the only tomato based item you have, and you dump mild picante sauce in a vat of Italian pasta and ground beef and you mix it up and pour it in a dish and cover it with cheese and teach your family the value of tradition and flexibility and that even though mom is tired and out of steam, she still loves you.
Jose Goolegooza is served.
Originally written 10.18.15