Four years ago I published a memoir, which was more like a long, angry letter to a woman who was my first hurt. Having fled a dark home where her voice was always the loudest sound, I felt free to shout from the rafters — to tell her all the things I was too frightened or too paralyzed to say. At the time I was newly sober and viewed the world through two singular colors: black and white. My mother was the absence of all color, while me — a woman drowning in her own frenzy — swallowed the rainbow. Never did I conceive that my feelings about her, and the life we lived together, would become complicated. Especially on that one day when she suddenly re-appeared in my life, another daughter in tow, asking a litany of questions related to money. While the drugs were gone, and her voice took on a patina of smoke and age, she remain unchanged. And this put me to thinking that all this time I secretly craved this idyllic reunion where my mother had transformed into the woman I wanted her to be rather than the one who wept over a phone line.
In the time since, I tried to write another book as I was told I had this gift and it would be a tragedy not to produce. Ah, produce. How could one not think of D.H. Lawrence, all destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and-produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction underneath. Until such time as it will have to hear. I tried to re-write the story of Jonestown, a version told by Jim Jones’ wife, but I grew bored of the project. I experimented with re-writing Woolf’s The Waves, but got caught up in the poetry.
Wasn’t I meant to produce?
But what happens when your days are filled with closing deals — meetings where you are the proud owner of the extinguisher that’s expected to put out all the fires — and your evenings are spent recovering from all that came before. What happens when you see time march on, your wild-child friends couple and propagate, your writerly friends breed essays at a velocity rivaling an epidemic, and here you are arranging a bookcase of books you can’t remember reading. Years ago a teacher told me that I should write out my obsession, preach it out like sermon, until there is no more. And so I did this, wrote this ode to my mother, and now I’m left with all these minor keying with no symphony to play for.
This week I cancelled my cable service (segue! segue!), determined to return to one of my loves, books. Immersing myself in worlds other than my own gave me a comfort of which I’m not quite able to describe. This weekend has been a joy as I found myself consuming Molly Wizenberg’s lovely A Homemade Life as if I were that Twilight Zone character left with an ocean of books after the great bomb.
Reading Wizenberg’s unabashed, lifelong obsession with food awakened me. Her prose was neither esoteric or poetic, but it was plain, honest and passionate. Reading her stories of life, love, loss and all the meals intertwined, made me feel like she was my smart girlfriend who knew how to bake a mean souffle. She’s secretly been inspiring me to re-visit France, this time as a foodie, and I found myself making, and feasting on, these delicious meatballs. Simply put, you will NEVER have a better meatball, PROMISE.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life (I served these with tomato sauce rather than Yoghurt Sauce), with minor alterations
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped pine nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins, coarse chop
1/2 cup panko
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp truffle salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/2 lb ground turkey (white meat)*
1/2 lb ground beef*
*There are endless combinations. You can have all turkey (white/dark meat), turkey + pork, turkey + beef, turkey + chicken, but the rule of thumb is that you need 1/2 of your meat to have a bit of fat to yield delicious, juicy flavor. This is just what I love. Molly’s recipe called for chicken, turkey or lamb.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add the ground meat, using your hands, break it up into small chunks. Then massage and gently knead the meat to incorporate the ingredients. Mix until combined, but do not overmix: meat gets tough easily. With damp hands, pinch off hunk of the mixture and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Set aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Warm two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs, taking care not to crowd them. As they begin to color, turn them gently with tongs and light shake the pan to roll them around, so they get some color on every side. The meatballs are ready when they are evenly browned on all sides and feel pleasantly firm, but not rock-hard. I like my meat VERY WELL DONE, so I cut one open to inspect it. Well done will take 8-10 minutes per batch.
Transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel, and cook the remaining meatballs.
Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and whole wheat cous cous, or kale salad! Enjoy!