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Spaghetti and Meat Sauce a la Marilyn

Indiana calls, again! I’ve just finished three author’s events in two days in the Hoosier state – a book reading, my first corporate-meeting speech, and an interview on the NPR program Sound Medicine – and wish that the publishing industry was HQed here; these people have been fabulous. William Styron got his start with an Indianapolis publisher, as I recall. After the NPR interview I visited the stunningly renovated and expanded Indianapolis Central Library downtown where Kurt Vonnegut’s name is carved into the Indiana limestone between Shakespeare’s and Milton’s, as it should be, and three new copies of my book shine on the shelves.

The first weeks of the book’s release have been exciting and educational. The NYC, DC, and ME readings and radio and TV interviews were catnip, and I’m ready for more servings. After a lifetime in the wilderness, the spotlight – even a pin light – is astonishing. The bookstore events have brought in so many old friends they’re reunions, and I’m enjoying the party, like seeing my graduate school professor, Neil Isaacs, at the DC event after a gap of 24 years; or my old NYC-roomie Anne Darragh for the first time in more than 20 years at the Portland reading; or my Wroxton College classmate Scott Biggs at the Indy reading, together for the first time since England in 1983. The merger of past and present has made for an emotionally charged month, on top of the thrill of publication, the kind of experience I have the urge to preserve alive, somehow pressing it in amber without killing it.

The nutty happenings that have come with my modest launch have also been a thrill: The one-and-only Donald Fagen appeared at the NYC reading, and I signed his book, “From one Jersey boy to another;” the well-briefed Sean Moncrieff of Irish Talk Radio introduced me as, “a famous restaurant critic,” and I’ve even gotten a kick out of the crackpots who send me merciless, sparkling hate mail. It beats being ignored.

The readings have all been followed by wonderful shared meals in swell restaurants. The tastiest food indulgence, however, happened this past weekend in a suburban kitchen. My in-laws hosted me in style in their Indy home, and I helped my mother-in-law cook her unparalleled spaghetti and meat sauce. For years, I’ve eaten bowls of it, watched her make it, then tried and failed to repeat the magic in my own kitchen. This time, I participated in the cooking and wrote down the recipe. Once home in NYC, I will try it again – and I will succeed! Try it in your kitchen and let me know how you did:

One-half cup of diced onion.                                                                                                   

One-half cup of diced green pepper.                                                                                 

Sauté with olive oil in a large pot.                                                                                        

Add one pound of lean ground beef, stir together on high heat.                                        

Add pinches of salt and pepper.                                                                                         

Stir until meat is crumbled and brown.                                                                            

Add a pinch of Italian seasonings.                                                                                         

Stir in one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.                                                                            

Add a splash of red wine.                                                                                                    

Add a pinch of Parmesan.                                                                                                     

Add a teaspoon of sugar.                                                                                                     

Stir together then simmer, covered, for 60 minutes.                                                             

While simmering, add spices, salt, or sugar as preferred.                                                 

When finished, pour sauce over cooked spaghetti. There should be enough to cover a one-pound box of pasta.