The spaghetti sauce was all Donald Trump’s fault. Our plan was to spend a Sunday afternoon ignoring any news and staying positive by having fun with a distraction, something completely out of character for us: cooking an old-fashioned spaghetti sauce. After all, we’re from Philadelphia, and our South Philly friends have told us their recipes over the years. A pinch of this, a little of that. How hard could it be?
As we went into the cabinets to get the pots and pans, as we delved into the refrigerator to get the ingredients, we found ourselves in silence, something rare for us over our 15 years. We put whole tomatoes into the pot, and we suddenly found ourselves saying: “According to Donald Trump, we’ll soon be in a restaurant having this meal.”
As we put the pan out and started to brown the ground beef, we chatted about our worry that this might be the last ground beef we have for a while. After all, the processing plants are all in coronavirus shut down. But hey, at least we have beef today. As we chopped the onions, one of us mentioned that Texas Senator Ted Cruz, on a recent Fox News interview, was livid over the fact that China had censored the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” by making the character of Freddy Mercury less homosexual. We fell onto the floor in laughter. Had the world gone mad? We added a little salt and pepper, and then one of us uttered, “And Ted Cruz is going to introduce legislation in the Senate to stop China from censoring homosexuality in U.S. films.” We started to laugh again.
Next, we added tomato paste and diced peppers, wondering if fresh garden vegetables would make it to farmer’s markets, or if it was now a thing of the past. The door bell rang, and we had to get a package, so we put on our homemade mask from a Pride Run T-shirt, our disposable gloves made in a factory, and we got the package. We doused it with homemade disinfectant and wondered why we couldn’t get any of those supplies, and then we remembered that Maryland Governor Hogan had hidden his supplies in a secret location under armed guards so Trump’s troops wouldn’t confiscate them like he did with 3 million dollars of Massachusetts’ medical supplies.
We tasted the sauce again, and it was watery and just not right, so we added oregano and basil. We let it simmer. Hopefully, the aroma filling the house meant we’d done good. Fifteen minutes later, we brought the sauce to our lips and … still nothing. No special flavor, no comfort food taste. So we went through the cabinet and just started tossing in one ingredient after another, tasting after each one. Dill, bay leaves, parsley, red pepper flakes. Since it was still too watery, we allowed it to just simmer for a couple hours, because flavors, like people, need time to get acquainted with one another.
When we went back and brought the spoon to our lips, it was literally the worst thing we’d ever tasted. And we realized that cooking the sauce was actually a real-life metaphor for what we are all going through together. Amateur cooks just tossing ingredients into a pot, hoping something will work, hoping for a miracle to make it all better. Does that sound familiar? Without being properly prepared or having the proper supplies, we stumbled all the way to the spit-out finish line.
Eventually, we decided to leave it to the experts and just toss out the sauce. Hope we’ll all do the same in November.