Musings over meatballs

2 Jan

Musings over Meatballs….

Dec 12, 2010 — Today’s pre-Christmas task: prepare the labor-intensive, paw-licking delicious Sweet N Sour Meatballs that surreptitiously (it was stolen) entered our Family Recipe Book around 1973.

We made these Meatballs, my mother, sister and I, many a December in preparation for our annual Christmas Eve open house. We’d relish the cooking and baking …and sampling ….in the kitchen with my mom.  Today, as I fried up meatballs solo with just the dog to help out with anything dropped (it’s a little different in a house full of men, just saying), and I created the meatballs for my own Christmas Eve Neighborhood Open House, I began thinking about meatballs and life lessons. It’s not exactly Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but stay with me here.

First of all, you need to let the raw meat reach almost room temperature or else you’ll feel like you have arthritis while you squish around in there. Bone chilling ache in the fingers makes for painful work. Many times we’d zealously rush to the task and end up miserable. Life lesson #1: Some things cannot be rushed and are much more pleasurable when nature is allowed to take its course.

My sis and I would always begin the meatball formation with glee, shaping the spheres with care to match the size of the perfect sample Mom made. Right around meatball number 50, however, and a glance at the still gigantic mound of raw ground beef with chopped water chestnuts, onions and spices, we’d gradually begin making the meatballs bigger. The bigger the meatball, the fewer we’d have to form. Right? Wrong. Quality Control (QC, aka Mom) sent them back and we’d have to pinch off the excess and form new ones.  Life lesson #2 – Do it right the first time, even if it is more difficult, more time consuming or not as much fun. It is worth it and will save you regret and do-overs in the future.

We loved these Sweet N Sour meatballs. LOVED them. We would snarf a few that Mom would offer as part of QC. Then, before the guests arrived, we’d power a few more. So yummy. Then, of course, a morsel or two (or 10) during the party. Well, more than a few times, I experienced meatball remorse — or reflux more accurately. Ugh. Life Lesson #3 – Too much of anything isn’t good for ya. Moderation in all things – even those things that you just love love love.

Frying the meatballs is not pleasant. Grease splatters and hair that smells like fried fat are part of the deal. But trying to determine if they are done is daunting me. I roll them around – squish them a little to see if the juice runs clear. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta open one up to check and be sure. Even the crispiest exterior can mask a raw middle. Life lesson #4: You can’t judge anyone or anything by outward appearances.

Several years after I’d left home, my Fightin’ Irish-loving hubby and I came to my folks for a visit in honor of the Stanford v. Notre Dame football game. My mom and I decided to make the Meatballs for the tailgate party, for which we’d rented a motor home. Departure time for Palo Alto rolled around, and we finally finished bringing out a week’s worth of food for the afternoon. It was difficult to find places to stash everything, and rather than have someone hold the Pyrex dish full of meatballs in their lap the entire ride across the SF Bay, one of us (we’re not sure who and let’s just leave it at that) decided that putting them in the RV’s microwave would be a good storage spot. Never mind that there was a sign (we discovered later) that said, among other admonitions “Warning: Do not use microwave as storage while motor home is in motion.”

So, as we backed the behemoth down the slanted driveway and reached level ground, a shift occurred in said microwave, and that Pyrex dish banged it’s way out, crashing to the floor of the RV (there goes the cleaning deposit) and worse, shattering a million Pyrex shards into those precious meatballs, which I can honestly say, were it not for the glass, would have been consumed by any number of people despite having been on the floor of a rented RV. Life Lesson #5 — Read and follow directions, especially those that begin with the word “Warning.”

We still had fun at that game, and I don’t even remember who won.  We had plenty to eat and drink. We have had many laughs about the meatball explosion – it is a family story now that must be told whenever meatballs are served. Life Lesson #6 — Often it’s the things that go wrong that make life richer and bond us together through shared experience and how we react to trouble.

Long gone are the who-put-it-there debates and the was-it-driver-error-that-caused-it ponderances. It doesn’t matter. Despite our hard work and our care to attention and detail in our preparation, something went wrong. Life lesson #7 — Bad stuff happens sometimes and it’s no one’s fault in particular. And even if it can be blamed on someone, if it’s done, and can’t be undone, and people are sorry and learned a lesson, forgive them and let it go. Clean up the meatballs and glass, and go have a good time at the football game.

So all this deep thinking in the time it took to fry up three pounds of meatballs. Funny, how much our family has gained through this stolen recipe. Which brings me to Life Lesson #8 – Share your dang recipes, people, so no one has to steal them! And, I promise to share this recipe with you – as soon as I can find the meatball portion of it! Had to wing it today – basic meatballs, but you add dried oatmeal, water chestnuts and Worchestershire sauce. They turned out okay, but I’ll have to tweak the exact measurements. But here’s the recipe for the sweet n sour sauce.)

Sweet & Sour Meatballs Sauce

Bring to boil the followiing:

-2 cups sugar

– 1-1/2 cups vinegar

-1-1/2 cups water

-2 tsp paprika

-4 tsp salt (3 may be better)

-4 Tb cornstarch in T water.

After sauce thickens add 1/4 cup Soy Sauce and 1 tspn ginger. Stir.

Pour drained meatballs into sauce and EAT!

God bless you and Merry Christmas.

2 Responses to “Musings over meatballs”

  1. Bryna S January 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I cherish the memories of your mom’s house on Christmas eve! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the secret of those amazing meatballs! Love the lessons, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • cindymcmahon January 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Bryna, and for being the first to see the blog!

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