7 Minute Stories by Aaron Calafato
Episode 55 - Sunday Sauce
You're listening to seven minute stories with Aaron Calafato , this episode: Sunday Sauce
AARON CALAFATO - STORY
If you're from an Italian American family or you're married to someone who's Italian American. Or related or somehow connected. You know what I'm talking about. It's this Sunday experience where there's a big pot of boiling wonderful, incredibly.. just succulent sauce that goes on top of a pasta of your choice. But a grandma makes it, or an aunt makes it or sometimes an uncle, but you gather at someone's house and the constant thing is this sauce that's boiling throughout the day and everybody.. family, friends gather around it from morning until night. And it's like the nucleus that connects everybody together. And people love each other around it, and hate each other around it, and fight each other around it, and kiss each other around it, and scream at each other around it. All of humanity and the life seems to center around that, and this Italian American tradition.
Now every Sunday source that I know of starts at the same base. The same ingredients.
Oil, olive oil usually. And then after you heat the olive oil up you add garlic slices to however many want. If you like the garlic he saw some people don't like a lot of garlic but you got to add some garlic to it. And then you add the garlic to the heated oil and then you heat the garlic not till it's burnt but just till it starts cooking a little bit and it becomes an aromatic and you can smell it...
You can actually sense it in your nose and then that's when you add you crush tomatoes. Now, even before then with the garlic, some people add onions or some people add shallots or something like that. And then when you add your crushed tomatoes, you bring it to a high heat and you boil it. Now at that point it's usually similar with everybody, but then people add different stuff. Different people from different parts of, obviously Italian and & Sicily. But in America that I know.. different families at different things. Some people add wine, some people add cheese, some people add meat.
And when you cook a meat that's a whole different thing. So you got to start the meat, some people cook it before the sauce and and add sauce to it. Sometimes you cook the meat completely separate then add it later. Some people braise the meat and then add the sauce and cook it all in a one pot meal.. no matter what you do. The essence of a Sunday sauce and what it does for your family and what it does for that day as being the centerpiece, no matter whatever else going around it, it's that's the one constant that's sitting there.
But the one thing that you have to do with a great sauce, and I can tell you this because my family's is the best, is that you cook it for a very long time. No matter how many flakes of oregano or parsley or Basil or however many different types of cheeses you put in there that type of wine that you use. The key thing that you have to do throughout the day is you cook it, after that first initial boil, you simmer that thing. And you simmer and you stir it.
You stir it. You remember that in Goodfellas ? The scene? Where Henry has a keeps telling his nephew. You gotta stir the sauce, stir the sauce or it's going to burn on the bottom. You always have to stir it, not all the time, but just so it doesn't burn. But you cook it for most of the day and a transformation happens. A transformation happens in the sauce from beginning to end and it tastes completely different where all the new ingredients and the old ingredients come together and time is infused in there.
And the other thing that's added to it, is the way the person's feeling when they're cooking. I mean that, because they don't use measurements, anybody that cooks a real sauce doesn't use measurements you.
You just throw a pincher or a or a dash or this or that so you don't ever use measurements, you just do it with how you're feeling and that changes.
And so the essence is always the same but the taste is slightly different depending on the experience...
That's how it's always been too I think with my life. And I think that's what it's like for identity too. Creating and improvising until we find the right combination. I mean for a lot of my life I only identified with my Italian and Sicilian heritage. Why? I mean even though it's the biggest chunk, I think 30 percent. what about the other 70 percent of the fractured parts of my ethnic identity? The Irish the English, the Welsh, the Scotch Irish, the German.
What about the other part of my American experience? I do know that a lot of my relatives, in America, are from Indiana. And I found this out a number of years ago. But to be honest when I did find that out I didn't really talk about it openly.
I don't know why. There's nothing wrong with Indiana, but in my mind when I was trying to figure out what my ingredients were, I was like I think it'd be cool to be Italian.... and it wouldn't be a lie.
Because it is who I am. It is who I am.
But I kind of left out the fact that I also come from farmers and a farm family in the Midwest. People who grew things in the ground. Maybe didn't have a ton of culture or worldly culture. Maybe didn't have the most romantic history. Stories and romanticism and love and passion... You know what I mean? See that even comes out of me. You know what I mean? But when I was driving there a few years ago and I was performing at a university think it was Purdue. And I was driving through Indiana and I really thought about it and I was thinking what the fuck is wrong with you Aaron ? Why don't you talk more about
that part of your family. Or why did you invested? Why aren't you interested in that? Why doesn't that become part of your mix? Why don't you acknowledge it? And so when I perform that night, I got in front of the audience and the first thing I did was basically tell them this story and I'd stood in front of them and I said: "You know: I'm this and my last name is Calafato and I got that...But let me tell you about a part of me that I'd never really talked about and that's about being from middle America.
Being from a farm family. And and also being proud of that work ethic that comes from there. I'm talking about the very specific essence of the people. That live from farm the farm to farm. And the kind of work that they do out there."
And then I find that same sort of pattern in my own life. The stability that I seek. The dependency, like they had on the land, that I have on the region where I live now and in Cleveland and in the Rust Belt. The kind of work ethic that I try to put into every single one of these fucking episodes. Every single one of my performances. Every single one of my stories. Always planting seeds always tilling the ground.
And I know they do that in America and I know they do that in Italy too. But I guess it's all just a part of me.........
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