Recipe Wednesday: Sympathetic Cookery

So on Monday, I got out of work early and hustled myself over to the dentist’s office for my check-up…only to learn that my appointment was for Tuesday at 4:00, not Monday.

Well, dang.  I guess it’s better to show up a day early than a day late, but it was still annoying.

What to do with myself now?

And then the answer hit me:  I could make spaghetti.

After a quick trip to the grocery store, I headed to my pantry shelves and loaded my arms up with cans of tomato paste and tomato sauce.  (Yes, it’s nice when I can start from tomatoes and go from there, but life doesn’t always work that way.)

And then I pulled out a couple of jars of Prego.

I know what you’re thinking:  Why not just open the jars and call it good?  But that’s not the way it works.

I learned to make spaghetti sauce from my mom, whose method was:  Brown a pound of ground beef in the electric skillet.  Drain off all of the fat.  Put the meat back in the skillet.  Take one envelope of “Spaghetti Sauce Mix,” one can (small) of tomato paste, and three cans of water.  Combine in skillet and simmer for the number of minutes directed on the sauce mix package.  Pour over cooked noodles (that have been broken into thirds before cooking because Dad likes his spaghetti tidy) and mix.

Yeah.  Not exactly inspirational, right?  You can tell there are no Italians in my family background.

Well, once I got married and moved out of my parents’ house (yes, I am that rare person in this day and age who did it in that order), I decided I didn’t have to be bound by “The Old Ways” any longer.

But I also had no clue as to how to go about making homemade sauce, either.

But I had watched my mom make chili, which she did using a method I think of as “Sympathetic Cooking”.  Which I define as, essentially, starting with a bit of what you’re trying to make.  (Kind of like sympathetic magic, right?)

So when Mom makes chili, she starts with…a can of chili.  From there, she’ll go on to add ground beef, and seasoning mixes (Mom was big on those little seasoning packets) and cans of tomato sauce, and beans, and who knows what-all.  And by the time she finishes, she ends up with something that, while still identifiable as chili, tastes nothing like that original can of chili.

And that’s how I make my spaghetti sauce.  I start with a jar of Prego and go from there.  I usually add tomato sauce and tomato paste and canned tomatoes (sometimes) and bunches of seasonings, and ground beef, and Italian sausage (note: the turkey sausage I tried this time out was, sadly, not a win), and gobs of garlic, and some bay leaves, and a spoonful of sugar.  I don’t add wine, as much as I’d like to, because Beloved Husband doesn’t care for it.  And I don’t add mushrooms, because mushrooms and I don’t get along anymore.

And when I finish up, the result is nothing like the Prego I started with…but it’s still pretty tasty.  Or at least, Beloved Husband and I think so.  And since no one else was invited to supper, I guess we’re the ones who count.  Right?

(For the record: I have made sauce without starting with the jar o’Prego.  Oddly, it tasted just the same as when I used the jar.  It also tastes the same if I use some other brand of jar sauce.  Oh, and after years of practice, I’ve finally managed to break myself of the habit of breaking the spaghetti into thirds before cooking.)

Does anyone else practice “Sympathetic Cooking?”  What dishes do you make?



About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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