Day 14: The Tomato Sauce Experience

Every August Nonna jars her own tomato sauce.  It used to be a one day event beginning at 5 am (where the grandkids would get in the baby pool with the tomatoes and wash them) but now since she is “hold” she breaks it down into three or four batches.  For the past week Nonna has been making the sauce – which makes the house smell amazing and makes me crave pasta nightly – to make the sauce you have to cut the core out of the tomatoes, cut them, peel off the “bad parts” and then do nonna things to it (shoutout to lizzie and beth: the sauce-a she’s-a yours, but the secret, she’s-a mine).  Now, usually I just watch…but this year, apparently I am Nonna’s indentured servant.  Last week I spent approximately 7 hours coring, cutting and peeling.  I have about 10 new cuts on my hand and burn marks on my left hand after Nonna poured (literally poured) scalding hot tomato sauce on my hand.  Her reaction: she laughed and told me I need tougher hands.

Now last week I began training for my job, which little did I know basically meant starting my job a week early, so there were a few days where I came home late from work or went into work after finding out last minute I had to be there, this created much panic in my grandmother.  I did not realize that this had disturbed her tomato sauce making mission.  Therefore, I was woken up one morning by Nonna at 6am to bring her baskets of tomatoes down the stairs to the kitchen.  I did so and then watched her bless her tomatoes (which she does before each step of the sauce making process) and get to work.  After I showered she told me she made a new schedule and that I am going to do my own basket of sauce this year.  (That is happening today…i’ll let you know how it goes).  She then took the opportunity to tell me that she did not appreciate me having to go into work, but “I do it before alone and I do it again alone.”

The best part of the sauce making tomatoes is watching Nonna buy the tomatoes themselves.  Nonna goes to the farmers market (New Jersey treasures) literally EVERY DAY during the month of august.  People legitimately think she is nuts all the time and she gets stopped constantly by people asking if she’s ok and needs anyhelp.  She naturally tells people her life story and they are best friends by the end of the story.  So finally, like a heroin addict, she finds her “dealer.”  “How much?” Nonna asks.  The dealer gives her a price which in her eyes is way too much – let’s say…twelve dollars.  “Ohhh come on…I am hold lady,” she responds.  Dealer: Ok…how about 11.50.  Nonna: (fake tears – no seriously) “No no, too much….I gonna buy ten baskets and these are second class tomatoes.”  Dealer: Ma’am these are perfect tomatoes.  Nonna: (tears continuing) “you take advantage of me…” Dealer:  How much do you want to pay.  Nonna: $10.  Dealer: Deal.  Like magic, year after year, Nonna gets her deals made in this exact fashion.  You would think the farm-workers union would have wanted signs for this woman.

Now seriously, my Nonna makes the best tomato sauce.  I know everyone says this about their mother’s sauce or their grandmother’s sauce…but honestly, I have NEVER had a person come eat dinner at Nonna’s and NOT say this is the best sauce they have ever had.  I’m convinced she puts ecstacy in it or something.  But this leads to another problem:  people wanting her sauce.  Nonna basically only makes sauce for people she likes and people she wants to bribe.  Everyone else can go to hell.  She gets mad if you give people a jar of sauce without telling her.  She gets angry when you make sauce for a lot of people which causes you to personally run out of your own sauce and ask her for more.  And she gets really angry when people ask her to make cases of sauce for them. “Do you know how much work this is? I gonna charge.”  She never charges, she thinks of it as a good deed, and then curses them later.  When I tell her its not a good deed if you curse the person, she curses me.

So, if Nonna does not get into heaven outright, at least we know she’ll use her sauce to bribe her way in 😉


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