Write a letter to a child explaining how to do one thing (for example, ride a horse or throw a punch)
(This is from my thesis story. I'm working on changing a lot of it and one of my ideas is making the recipe sections into letters. This prompt gave me the idea and this is the first one I changed into a letter from a mother passing on a family recipe to her daughter.)
In the tradition of the women in the family I’m writing you this letter now while you are only days old. You won’t be opening this letter until you are much older. I received the letter my mother wrote to me on the night I graduated from graduate school. She received her the night before her wedding to grandpop. I don’t know when you’ll be getting this letter but when you read it, you will finally learn the secret to the family gravy.
The recipe currently in my possession is sadly not the exact recipe my grandmother made. Your grandmother had made some adjustments over the years. It still takes me most of the day to make a big pot. I haven’t made a pot since you’ve been born, but I made sure to stock up on gravy. They are in jars in the freezer next to pumped bottles of breast milk.
This first part is why you don’t learn this recipe until you are older. Every pot of gravy starts with some chopped vegetables: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1/2 pepper, 1 garlic clove. In a large stock pot sauté the veggies before adding a large can of tomato puree. Let that all simmer for about a half hour. At this point you want to carefully puree the sauce in either by transferring it in batches to a blender or with an immersion blender. (Just want to say I’m happy that I don’t have to puree this like my grandmother with a food mill or a ricer. This is why grandma’s changes aren’t a bad thing at all.)
Once your sauce is pureed, add another can of tomato puree and a small can of tomato paste. Fill that small can with water and add it to the pot, do this twice. Now you let it simmer for a few hours. Keep checking and tasting. Make sure to keep seasoning the sauce each time you taste. I suggest tasting the sauce with some nice Italian bread, just dip the bread right into the pot. (I’m hoping by the time you read this letter, this will be something you enjoy doing as much as I enjoyed it as a child and now as an adult.)
To turn your sauce into a gravy, add meat and simmer. The women of our family have been known to add a variety of things (sausage, pork chops, ribs, chicken, crab legs/meat) but mostly meat balls. Whatever you add make sure you let it simmer awhile, this way the flavor of the meat has time to develop. If you are cooking the meat the same day you make the sauce, remember it will be simmering so all you have to do is brown and sear it off before adding it to the pot. The meat will finish cooking in the gravy.
Once the gravy is finished, and you’ll know because the house will smell amazing and that alone will make your mouth water. Now it’s either time to serve or let it cool before freezing in glass jars. I don’t think the glass matters but it’s how it’s always been done.
You’re awake now so I’ll just end this letter with an I love you.