I suppose you could say svelte is like gracefully slender, or blandly urbane, dad said. Yeah, still don’t get it, mum said through mouthfuls of Nona’s spaghetti and meatballs. I swiped a chunk off her plate - soft, moist and packed with oregano. Kind of like you’re trendy and cool, but so much so that you don’t need to shove it in everyone’s faces. It’s like chic and cool, but chill, I offered. I looked around the Americanised Italian restaurant, aptly named Tiramisu. A swathe of fairy lights hung from the ceiling, and wrapped around each brick pillar was a fake grape-covered vine. Everything from the yelling Italians in the kitchen to the chinking of cutlery seemed louder than ordinary. If svelte had a literal antonym, Tiramisu was it. It’s a certain nonchalance, Mia, Dad added. After a short pause, mum pulled the kind of face you see in cartoons, where the adorable character has been walloped over the head by something heavy, leaving them cross-eyed and confused.
We all burst out laughing, before mum suggested we take a ‘selfie.’ Whenever my mum makes a suggestion, it’s actually a cunningly passive demand, cleverly disguised to look like an innocent idea. Like, hey guys, you could turn the air-conditioner down if you wanted. You couldn’t clean up the last of that bagel could you? If you’re that bored, you could help me with these dishes. So instead of tell my mum that the selfie is an extremely pedestrian brand of lame, I spun around and snapped one of the three of us smiling, making sure to catch some of Nona’s ‘balls in the corner of the frame.
The next day poured with rain, so we decided to visit the local gallery – Dia:Beacon. Our soaked shoes squeaked obnoxiously on the wooden floor, echoing through the cavernous space. The first room we came to was pristine white. Something similar to what I’d imagine an asylum to look like. On each of the walls hung one or two sheets of equally white paper. Alison, this art is crap, my dad whispered. We hovered over the artist card, scoffing at the bit that read ‘the meaning lies in what you don’t see - the imperceptible components,’ which to us, seemed to be most of the gallery. Further along we walked into a darkened section filled with piles of felt and an actual heap of rubble. The whole display was illuminated by one of those lights used by underground miners. Al, is this one the storeroom? Mum asked. I feel like I should clean it. Mum, please don't clean the art.
I’m already pre-empting the devastating departure of my parents, and have set my phone backdrop as the dorky photo of us from Tiramisu. It’s pretty low res, our faces are out of focus, and all you can really make out is the brick wall behind. But most important to me when I look at that picture, is the memories of a special moment in time filled with love, laughter and gratitude – the imperceptible components.
- 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- ½ cup tomato paste
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 heaped teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup sweet chilli
- ¼ cup Sriracha
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 700g good quality ground beef
- Salt & pepper
- 1 egg
- Fresh oregano, basil & parsley (about 6 tablespoons, finely chopped)
- 1 packet wholewheat spaghetti
- Grated Asiago or Parmesan to serve
- In a large bowl, combine mince, salt, pepper, egg and about ¾ of the herbs with your hands.
- Roll mixture between your palms into about 25 or so little balls.
- This is a good point to put the pasta on to boil.
- For the sauce, fry the onion in olive oil until browned. Add the garlic and the remainder of the herbs and sauté for another couple of minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, paste, stock, lemon juice, wine, Sriracha and sweet chilli sauce. Bring the boil for a couple of minutes.
- Add sugar, and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper before gently lowering the meatballs into the sauce. Allow to simmer for another five or so minutes until the meatballs have cooked through.
- Strain pasta and divide into bowls. Place meatballs and a good spoonful of sauce, before topping with Asiago or Parmesan.