Saturday lunch was a big deal when I was little. Saturday was my Mother’s ‘Day off’ from us and from the house in general. Where she went or what she did was never of much concern to us. Possibly she went shopping but whatever it was we weren’t too interested. Dad was in charge and that meant the rule book was ripped up and scattered to the four corners of our tidy dust free home. Anything could happen once the chaos theory was implemented but our one grounding constant was that Dad was cooking and Saturday lunch was only ever going to be Spaghetti.
We liked to think of ourselves as being cosmopolitan and well traveled. To be fair my Dad had lived in Vancouver, Canada for five years and had traveled to New York, London and Paris but his growing fear of plane travel meant that we had not got much further afield than the Isle of Man in England. Dublin in the 1970’s was pretty grim in the culinary sense but our Uncle ( Franco) was Italian and therefore we had a claim on knowing a thing or two about pasta. Our dark hair and our ability to tan easily only backed up our exotic claims when in fact Franco was married to my Aunty Sheila and had none of his Roman blood coursing through our veins. They also lived in Rome so we were lucky to see them once a year. Be that as it may, we ate Spaghetti once a week in his honour. My Dad’s signature dish was Spaghetti with meatballs but sadly this didn’t involve a sauce of any description. He hadn’t learned how to make tomato sauce (or any sauce) and wouldn’t until he summoned the courage to get back on a plane and visit Rome quite a few years later. In the meantime Saturday lunch of Spaghetti and meatballs stayed firmly on the menu. To counteract the dryness of the dish a large dollop of Heinz tomato ketchup was dished out to each child. It had the desired affect and encouraged us to swallow the dry meatballs. Once our plates were licked clean (unlike my impeccably mannered Mother, Dad had no problem with this) plastic bowls with vanilla Ice cream were our reward. We all made an attempt to clear up and then we were free to run amok around the house, the garden or the street.
Dad usually mowed the lawn or tinkered with the car until our Mother came home in time to cook us dinner and rescue the house from the rampant disorder that had already taken hold in the few scant hours since she had left. As she prepared dinner I could hear her tutting about the state of the house or that the washing machine had not been turned on and it was then that I discovered that there is no such thing as a ‘Free Lunch’.