Italy. The mother country. And I was with my best peeps. My Dad generously planned a trip for all of my 10 siblings and spouses through Europe. I missed the charges terribly, but I was in Italy, for pete's sake, so I tried not to weep....often. Especially since I was having the time of my life. I plan to make it up to the charges by taking them to Europe, just as soon as I become fabulously wealthy. Still waiting. It might be a long time.
But back to Italy. The first day just happened to be my little brother Roy's birthday. Roy is two years younger than me, is a succesful businessman and has a lovely home, a beautiful wife and five smart children. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and respected wherever he goes. It's all true. But to those of us who know him well, he's a doggone snarky little pest. Once he glued my sister's make-up to the counter, just for fun. He also hid a mannequin under the covers of an unsuspecting sister's bed. And once when I was taking a nap by the pool, he put a pot over my head and rang it with a ladle. He would do it again, if he was ever lucky enough to catch me napping. Despite his inner peskiness, on the surface he is rather shy, which sometimes gives people the mistaken idea that he is saintly. Don't be lured in, or you could be the next victim.
And I know a secret about Roy. He hates to have happy birthday sung to him. He squirms and blushes with a brittle smile plastered on his face. That's precisely why I LOVE to sing Happy Birthday to him. You can't imagine how eager I was to spend Roy's birthday with the whole gang. That evening, we gathered at an amazing restaurant (Ambasciata d'Abruzzo) and ate our way through roasted eggplant, prosciutto, fresh ricotta cheese, pasta, and more. After dinner, the head waiter brought out a blackberry jam tart for Roy. Finally the big moment had arrived. As we sang Happy Birthday, Roy put on his painfully pleasant smile. We all giggled and enjoyed his discomfort. Roy was a good sport, but he was clearly glad to get this birthday business over with. But then, just as the song was ending, some Scandinavian revelers from another party caught wind of our singing. They were soused, completely drunk and having a gay old time. They came over and surrounded Roy, singing and dancing, with their arms draped around him. The men toussled his hair and the women kissed him on the cheeks with their warm garlic and alcohol breath. Roy was in beet-red agony, but he kept his frozen smile. And I sat in the corner doubled over, with tears streaming down my cheek, unable to even snap a photograph.
Ha, Ha, Ha Roy. And Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday, dear Roy. Happy Birthday to you. And many, many more.
And here's my favorite sausage and tomato pasta sauce to share a little bit of Italy with all of my dear readers. And when you make it, please think of my brother Roy and wish him a happy birthday in your heart. A very loud and cheery happy birthday, just to make him blush.
Italian Tomato and Sausage sauce
Estimated Cost: $6.00 for about 6 cups
1 lb. Italian sausage, (a combo of hot and sweet is best)
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, optional
In a large pot, cook sausage over medium heat breaking up with back of spoon, until almost cooked through. Add onion to pan and cook for five minutes longer, or until onion is softened and sausage is cooked. Stir in tomatoes, flakes, and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least twenty minutes, and up to an hour. (It's even better if you make it a day or two ahead.) Remove from heat and stir in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pasta and lots of parm, of course.
Golden Delicious Apple Crisp