When deciding on where I wanted to go to school, thinking about how far I was from home was never something I took into concern. I knew that anywhere I’d end up would be a plane ride away. So, I came from Southern California all the way to the Smackdab Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania, and (don’t tell my mom) I love it. I love the freedom that comes along with being approximately 2,000 miles away from home, knowing I’m adult enough to do things on my own, and just doing incredible, college things. But I’ll say it: I experience homesickness like no other.
There are so many times throughout the year where I am counting down the days until my next flight home. I wish so often that I could just hop in the car and drive home like so many of my friends have the luxury of doing. Alas, that is not something that is possible.
However, I’ve found something that holds me over. Food. More specifically, any and all foods that remind me of home. Foods that I used to hate when my mom would make for dinner because we ate it every single week. Foods I used to think were weird or embarrassing. Foods that bring back memories of home.
Something that I find myself craving often is my mom’s spaghetti and meat sauce. I remember being so small that I’d have to stand on a stack of phone books just to peak over the stove as my mom mixed the sauce in a giant pot. I’d sneak noodles from the strainer in the sink and reenact Lady and the Tramp with my sister. I can even remember how the entire house would flood with this smell of marinara. It’s those memories, those feelings of nostalgia and comfort that I so desperately miss sometimes - especially when failing a big exam or simply sitting on the couch procrastinating.
When those times hit, this is what I do. I text up my mom for a recipe that she usually tells me to just Google since she never uses actual recipes. Or she tells me how to make said recipe and I agonize over the fact that nothing I ever cook will actually taste like hers. Nonetheless, I run to the grocery store once and then again because I forgot something. I spend hours in the kitchen trying to make the dish perfect. And many times it doesn’t turn out to taste exactly like Mom’s, but it’s close. And once I realize just how close, it relieves that homesick feeling more than I had hoped for.
It reminds me that home can be recreated in any kitchen. Something as simple as eating the frozen waffles that I basically shoved down my throat on the way to grade school, makes me feel so nostalgic. It sounds weird (I know it does) but it helps. It helps when things are familiar . When I open the fridge and see the same brand of butter or juice or pickles that I have at home reminds me that I am never too far from the place that raised me. Never too far from the foods that made me.
My Mom’s Meat Sauce -
In hopes that you are able to find some comfort in the thing that comforts me the most, I’m attempting to share with you my mom’s recipe. Take into account that this is technically a recipe to feed an entire family of 4 or more...so if you are cooking for one, like many college students are, I would suggest figuring out how to portion this correctly. BUT it also freezes very well and can be warmed up in the microwave in a jiffy. Providing a super quick fix when you need it.
Ingredients 1 jar of Prego (must be Prego) Fresh Mushroom Italian sauce Spaghetti A little olive olive 1 carton of mushrooms (whatever you can find is fine) One white onion Garlic (there is never a limit on how much) Salt Pepper Sugar (weird but good! steal a packet or two from the coffee shop) 1 lb of ground beef or turkey if you’re #health
Steps Put a smidge of olive oil in a very large saucepan - the biggest pan you own - over medium high heat. Add your garlic, onions, and mushrooms in. Then add your ground beef and let that goodness all brown up. Don’t let it burn!!!!!!!! Serious things. Or else it will be a sad, sad sauce. Once that is all merry and mingled, you may wanna drain some of the excess oils that rendered out. Add your Prego sauce in. Let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Taste. Here’s the weird touch, but honestly the best ingredient...sugar. I start with about a small spoonful then incorporate in more as needed. It really rounds out the dish. Seriously. Oh also boil your spaghetti!!! Whatever the box says. And please, please salt your water. Make it salty like the ocean. Then once your noodles are all good, dump some in a bowl. Top it with the sauce and boom. You are transported home.