It's All in the Sauce
Just had to say, today, for almost the first time in my life, I had REAL Italian food. You know. Not Tony's frozen pizza with Prego in a jar, drowned in Kraft Parmesan sawdust in a little green cylindrical can. As in recipes prepared by Italian American cooks, handed down by Italian American grandmothers, and served in restaurants owned by Italian American families. (I had a fresh mozzarella salad in Boston once, but that didn't come with sauce, so that doesn't count.)
I've heard stories about people going to some little out of the way place they never tried before and having the best meal they ever ate, but I didn't think it could happen to me. When I try a new place, I usually get nervous because there are ten people standing behind me in line on their lunch hour, and no time to decipher the menu on the wall, and I end up with half a croissant dripping something slathered in mayonnaise, a few stale chips, and a pickle. But now I'm in Pennsylvania, and in matters culinary, as in other areas of my life, there is, at long last, hope.
Couple of weeks ago I promised myself I'd have a piece of pizza for Fat Tuesday at this little hole in the wall pizza place next door to the grocery store where the nuns shop. I never saw anybody parked there, so I figured maybe it would be so-so, if I was lucky. But I didn't care. It was Fat Tuesday, and I was feeling daring. A simple Quarter Pounder just simply would not do.
I parked in the diagonal parking beside Gould's and walked in. At 1:00 PM there was nobody in there but the guy at the counter, a tall hefty guy with ear plugs (and I don't mean the soundproofing kind). There were several pieces of pizza and some stromboli. He said it was steak and cheese, and I said that sounded good. He invited me to sit down, saying it would be a minute and he would bring it out to me, which I thought was very gentlemanly of him.
I sat down and sipped on my Pellegrino Momenti (Clementine-and-peach-flavored Italian mineral water), perusing the to-go menu. Soon he brought my lunch to me on a tray with a little sauce on the side and OH MY GRACIOUS GOODNESS! The stromboli was excellent--very thin, tender crust cradling a thin rolled steak wrapped in thick slices of cheese--but the SAUCE, the sauce was to DIE for.
The weird thing is, I don't know why it was so good, only that it was the best thing I ever put in my mouth. I mean, I could put that stuff in my coffee in the morning and be a better person for it. I've heard of sauce like that before, sort of like a pureed gravy consistency, supposedly what they serve in Black Eagle, Montana, at Borrie's Supper Club, but I'd never had it. And I got both the stromboli and the drink for under $6 bucks! Bonus!
So now I can die happy and go to heaven fulfilled, or at least enter the season of Lent with some happy fortification, because today I had real Italian food in a real Italian restaurant. Best of all, it's just up the road, and I know where to get more next time I decide to go all out and indulge. And I don't need to fight the crowds or take out a bank loan or walk a mile to eat there!
Only forty days until Easter! Where will YOU break your Lenten fast? Happy Mardi Gras!
Locked Doors and Lightning Bolts
The past couple of weeks have contained transformative moments that are still repercussing (is that a word?) like aftershocks or echoes of thunder after the lightning strikes suddenly in a violent storm. With only the best of intentions (the very things that pave that famous road to perdition), I tried a little too hard to attain something I have been wanting to do for most of my life—to enter a monastery—and failed miserably. The tearful aftermath was not pretty, but at least now I know the truth. I am not nun material, and regardless of how badly I might wish to be, God made it abundantly clear that it is time to put that dream on the shelf of Things Once Wished For But Better Left Undone.
When you think you have things all neatly arranged in your life, when you think all the years of effort and faith and prayer are finally paying off, don't be too surprised if the doors you thought had opened are suddenly locked again, and you're the one who locked them. There is a point when admirable perseverance is really just pigheaded stubbornness taken a little too far. One must be willing to face when one is wrong and give up gracefully.
But no one knows us better than God does, and He has a perfect plan, even for pigheaded people like me. I'm just not quite sure what it is yet, but honestly at this point it no longer matters. Like the doomed men of the Light Brigade, mine is not to reason why, mine is just to do and die. I can still live a good and even holy life of prayer and good works. I just won't be wearing a long, pretty veil while I do it. Oh, my wounded vanity! I was so hoping to cover this thinning, curly gray mop.
Next to that traumatic event, the rejection of my novel by Pauline Books & Media was no more troublesome than a mosquito bite. Next stop, Ignatius Press. Onward!
Today is the Feast of Candlemas. More commonly known as the Feast of the Presentation, in pre-Vatican II days it was called the Feast of the Purification of Mary, making it the only major feast day that now has three different names. In much of the Western world, however, today is called by another appellation: Super Bowl Sunday. (We could throw Groundhog Day in there just for good measure, but one can only go so far in a short blog post.) Amongst traditional Catholics who refuse to cave in to social pressure and resolutely put up their Christmas decorations at, um, Christmas, today also marks the official end of the Christmas/Epiphany season.
Today is traditionally one of the more popular days when many young people choose to enter religious life, following the theme of entering the temple. At Holy Annunciation Monastery, we had a festive meal and then drew cards with the names of our patron saints for the coming year, along with the Gift from the Crib of Bethlehem we are to manifest to the community, the virtue we are to pray for, the Sister we are to pray for, the intention we are to pray for, and the day when we are to offer the Liturgy for her. I got St. Mary of Egypt, St. Elias (Elijah the Prophet), patience, and our benefactors. My Gift from the Crib was the Adoration of the Shepherds. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it's better than the "darkness of the cave" and "the warmth of the oxen's breath," which were a couple of other gifts that were bestowed.
St. Mary of Egypt was a penitent of the -- I want to say fourth century? I will have to read up on her. The Prophet Elijah, of course, is one of the pillars of the Old Testament and incredibly is considered the founder of the Carmelite Order. "With Zeal I Have Been Zealous for the Lord God of Hosts" is the battle cry and motto of that venerable eremitic Order. May those saints teach me how to grow in virtue (although I don't know if Elijah excelled in patience, Mary of Egypt surely did, having dwelled in the desert doing penance for some 80 years.) Elijah battled the prophets of Baal and slew them. These are appropriately super-saints, much needed for our troubled times and for me, who tend to coddle and cater to myself at every possible opportunity. Goes right along with Fr. Boghossian's fiery sermon today quoting several saints about the necessity of suffering for good Christians carrying our crosses.
A lot to take in on one snowy Sunday in Sugarloaf.
Now, play ball!
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.