Spaghetti and Meatballs and Love at War:
I first wrote my historical romance Love at War shortly after my mother’s death. I’d read the letters her brother Russell had sent home to his parents and to his wife Vivian. My Uncle Willie also had sent items from overseas home to my grandparents, and my grandmother (the real Viola Russell Zimmerman) had stored them lovingly away. Uncle Russell never returned from war; he left behind a wife and sweet baby girl, my godmother Sandy. Uncle Willie returned but remained emotionally scarred by war and loss. I wanted to tell their story–not the story of those individuals in particular–but the story of their generation; however, the Comeaux family is very much like my family. They were of German and French origin, and they ate very traditional New Orleans food. (Well, my family isn’t really French, but Nuala’s knowing French and German became an integral part of the storyline. We are German with a healthy dose of Irish).
Several of my family members read Love at War and identified with the Comeaux/Roussell families, but the topic that caused more debate than anything was Grandma Viola’s spaghetti and meatballs recipe. I’d committed the sin of saying she’d cooked meatballs in brown gravy! The relatives began debating on the ingredients and the sauce in a volley of emails, text messages, and phone calls. My cousin Trudy said, “My daddy made the meatballs just like his mama. It was red gravy.” My cousin Jimmy said, “I vote for red, too.” My cousin Emmet said, “Sue, Grandma used brown gravy for the stewed chicken and red gravy for the meatballs.” That clarified things. Sorry, cousins, for screwing up the recipe that we all loved. I have my mother’s recipe, which was her mother’s. What I now love about this recipe is that it started us all talking and sharing memories. Here’s my Grandma Viola’s spaghetti and meatballs recipe:
- shallots 9. flour
- Ground meat, 10. cooking oil
- celery 11. sugar
- salt 12. bay leaf
- pepper 13. tomato paste
- oregano 14. bread crumbs
- Lea and Perrins sauce 15.butter
- Chop shallots into a bowl for the ground meat.
- Mix ground meat with shallots, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, Lea and Perrins.
- Roll the ground meat into balls using flour.
- Heat the oil in a pot and fry the balls.
- Set aside the meatballs. (Make sure they are packed tight).
- Drain grease into handy can.
- Put a pinch of sugar and bay leaf in tomato paste can.
- Put shallots and celery in the pot. Stir with tablespoon of butter or margarine.
- Spoon tomato paste into pot with two coffee pots of water. Stir.
- Season with parsley, oregano, salt and pepper.
- When seasoning comes to a boil, put meatballs into the pot.
- Cook on a medium flame for approximately two hours.
- Cook spaghetti for approximately ten minutes in a separate pot.
- Pour cold water over spaghetti when ready.
- Serve the meatballs over the spaghetti.