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Vegetarian on the Inside... Mom may have been right about a bunch of things...

January 25, 2011

Now that I am 30, I am wise and thoughtful. I serenely move through the world, at peace in the face of new semesters and two-inch walls of snow. I am full of insight. And forgiveness. The dog throws up on the carpet? No big deal. It could have been my bed. The dog throws up on my bed. Wan smile. I. am. beatific.
I am also willing to acknowledge that I may have been wrong in the past about some things. The post-punk Betty Page bangs I gave myself in a fit of overconfidence with the sheers. They required far more attention in the morning than I was willing to give. Also, the five straight years of psychologically tormenting my little brother (for wearing turtlenecks and sweatpants continuously, for even thinking of trying to ride in the front seat, for breathing through his mouth, etc.), I see now that that was wrong.
Also, though I denied it at the time, I think my mom was probably right about a bunch of things after all. Though I only half heard what she said over my hyperventilating sobbing fit, she was right. The world did not end after my first boyfriend and I broke up. Also, telling telemarketers to snail mail you their promotional information is a great way to never hear from them again. Driving 95 mph in a 65 mph zone – wrong. The state trooper says so too, it turns out.
My mom retired at the end of the year so I think she deserves some additional satisfaction and recognition for balancing her career as a high-powered attorney with the daily scowling faces of my brother and I. We were wrong to complain about the steamed zucchini and puffy omelets and spaghetti (it took me three tries to spell that right – seriously? An h?) that didn’t taste right because it didn’t taste like the meat-and-sticky-sweet-tomato slop we were fed at the school cafeteria.
Mom, I miss your spaghetti sauce all the time. I crave it. The smell of it bubbling away on the stove reignites memories of family vacations to the northern coast or the Sierras – tramping through brisk streams, playing monopoly for two-days straight, and falling asleep in the pine-scented sunshine. So, I’m sorry we said your food tasted like it came from Oklahoma in a beat-up station wagon. We were wrong to ask for our omelets to be filled with disdain and/or legoes.
I’ve attempted to recreate my mom’s spaghetti sauce for a kinder, gentler, meat-free age. It is thick and hearty with fresh vegetables. At the volume given here it can feed an army. I throw mine under the broiler before adding them to the sauce to give them that additional flavor that comes from nearly setting things on fire. The wine adds depth and subtlety that we never appreciated as kids. Cutting everything up takes some time at the beginning but then the sauce can just simmer on the stove pretty much unattended, so it’s a good weekend meal. Take advantage of the down time to give your mom a call and tell her that she was right.

Mom’s Sass Sauce
Serves 6-8
Time: 3 hours total, 40 minutes active, maybe 10 minutes more if you choose to grill/broil the vegetables first

2 zucchini
1 bell pepper
4 oz mushrooms, canned is okay
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup butter
4 medium-sized onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped celery tops
2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 28-oz can tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup zinfandel, burgundy, or other red table wine
grated parmesan cheese, for serving
1 lb. dried spaghetti, for serving

If you choose to grill or broil your vegetables first, cut the zucchini lengthwise into1/2-inch strips, cut the bell pepper in half and core it. Brush the zucchini, bell pepper, and mushrooms with olive oil and, if broiling, place on a baking sheet and brush with the olive oil. Broil or grill until tender an a little browned, turning the zucchini after about 4 minutes. Or, if you’d rather skip this step, just chop zucchini, bell pepper, and mushrooms into 1/2-inch pieces.
In a dutch oven or heavy soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the garlic. After about three minutes, stir in the parsley, celery tops, rosemary, basil, sugar, and pepper. If you have chosen not to grill or broil the vegetables then toss them in now.
When the vegetables have started to soften, add the canned tomatoes, with their juice, the tomato paste, and the wine. Stir until well mixed.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve on cooked spaghetti with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Alix Hui is an Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi State University. She can be contacted at

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