Walking in the supermarket, I pick up things to cook, I pretty much stay away from the produce section. Why buy it when I can head out to the garden and pick it. I have a large bowl full of peppers, zucchini and tomatoes at home. They will be my lunch this week and a good start to some wicked tomato sauce. I do grab some mushrooms. I love the earthy taste and wet texture they have once they have been sauteed in a little olive oil. And with an onion pulled from the black earth cleaned and chopped; some sweet basil and garlic to spice it up…the tomato sauce is started. I think that secret to a good tomato sauce is the extras that you put in it. Yes the tomatoes are key but without the onions, the mushrooms, the garlic and the basil, the sauce is flat. It needs to meld and blend with the vegetables that you add to it. Sometimes I add zucchini and sometimes I add peppers. Today it is mushrooms.
Now, what goes good with red sauce and mushrooms. Why meatballs. Little spicy treats waiting to be found under the tomato blanket and on a pasta bed. They don’t wait long as my nose sniffs them out like a bloodhound after its game. I find one hiding under a mushroom and spear it with my fork. I can almost hear it squeal. Squeal with glee that is. Because meatballs love one thing. To be eaten. They want to be discovered and eaten and enjoyed. Kissed and licked and nibbled upon. That is their goal as they sit under the tomato sauce scheming as to how they can climb up into my mouth. But alas, I have given up my sweet meatballs. No, please do not cry my little friends for you will find many more mouths to enjoy your deliciousness. So, I cannot have you hiding in my sauce. Our games on the dinner plate have ended.
With that said, what do I do? I continue to shop. I head over to the dairy and pick up some yogurt and Silk. And as I turn, I see them, those scheming little meatballs peering at me from the frozen foods department. I walk over and open the freezer door. They are in a green box waiting for me to rip them open and kiss them and nibble at them. They are soy meatballs. No meat in these. So I read the list of ingredients. All good. No odd chemicals and binders that are 20 syllables long. No preservatives, no meat. Yet, they are a processed food. Made in some factory by machines that care little about the goodness of the meatball. So what am I to do. Is this cheating. I forget about this question and add the soy meatballs to my basket.
I make my red sauce. Damn good, as I like to brag a bit. I add my meatballs and cook them into the sauce. I put it all on a nice bed of pasta. Guess what. I can hear these very soy meatballs scheming. Plotting to get into my mouth. So I spear one and pop it in biting down hard and pressing it with my tongue to the roof of my mouth. It was good. I find another and push it around my plate so it is covered in sauce. I press it into my mouth and this time I squeal. So good. So delicious. I have another and another and soon they are gone. The taste of spicy red sauce lingers on my tongue.
So is the soy meatball cheating? To some it is. To some it is not. To me it is a little friend that blends with the tomatoes to make the sauce something that I will enjoy. I will not feel guilt. I will only listen to my delicious friends and seek them out when they are hiding in the pasta and sauce. I am happy for that cheating meatball. The soy meatball.