My mother’s always said that the best kept secret in cooking is the one that doesn't exist. Well, if we have any cooking secrets in our kitchen it’s that you can use water in everything. Yes, folks, I said water. For example, my mother makes a great meat sauce (ditto for her tomato sauce), and when she puts some in the steam table to reheat for service, she dilutes it with water because it’s too thick. If she didn't do this, we would use double the amount of sauce every night. So, adding water means she doesn't have to make sauce as often, which means we save money.
Half water half sauce makes for something special, let me tell you. We argue about it all the time (big surprise), but she tells me and my sister to mind our own business because she knows what she’s doing. Well, she might be a genius in the kitchen when she’s on, but when she’s off, she’s so far off that there’s no GPS that can get her back on track. Take tomato sauce, for example. It should be red, right? On a good night, ours is a pinkish orange colour and fills the ladle like a watery soup, not a sauce. It’s hard for us not to stare as she scoops it up, but my mother just glares back at us with her ‘what the h*ll are you staring at’ look, like she’s daring us to challenge her. If we actually do say anything, the conversation usually goes something like this…
Me: Ma, that's too watery. It won’t stick to the pasta. We need to add more sauce.
Mother: You don’t know what you’re doing.
Me: Oh, I didn't know that over 20 years wasn't enough experience.
Mother: Don’t talk to me like that.
Me: But it looks like you left the sauce pot sitting under running water.
Mother: Stop being so smart.
Me: Sorry, I keep forgetting that I’m supposed to be more stupid around you.
Sister: Seriously, ma, we have 26 people to serve right now. I need more sauce.
Mother: You guys use too much sauce! I told you, you don’t know what you’re
Sister: OK, ma, we don’t know what we’re doing, but I still need more sauce to serve all these people!
Mother: Basta, Basta (translation: enough, enough)! I’m standing right here! Stop yelling! OK? I understand! You need more sauce!
Me: Finally! Who’s going to get it?
Sister: I can’t go with all of these pans on the stove.
Mother: You know something? You guys make me go crazy in here. I’ll go get it. OK? Just stop talking.
I know, all of this commotion over sauce is crazy, right? Well, this is what it's like working with a woman who got her start kickin' it old (make that very old) school. Sure, what she learned in kitchens way back when can be applied today, but they require a modern twist to make them work. Trying to make her understand that is the hard part. I mean, not only is the woman as stubborn as a mule, but she's also Italian (if you have European parents, you know what I'm talking about), so it's just about impossible to get through to her. Not for lack of trying though, believe me.
Anyway, there you have it, folks. The secret of the sauce is good old H2O.