Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pat Montella in the Kitchen

Snow is blowing sideways past my window at the moment. We already have a foot of the white stuff on the ground and the storm won't be over for another 10 hours. Yesterday at noon, our local TV news showed the masses of humanity in the grocery stores, loading up not only on Super Bowl munchies, but on milk, bread and eggs. Something about the thought of being snowed in makes people want those 3 items handy. A friend of mine deduced from this that snow=french toast.

The news made me do my own inventory. Lots of eggs, but only 4 slices of bread and slightly more than a cup of milk which was beginning to develop enough of a personality, I knew I'd be throwing it out today if I didn't use it up (I made pudding last night). Did I rush out to the store? No. A few days, even a week, without milk and bread isn't going to kill me. Milk and bread aren't worth fighting those crowds.

But it got me thinking about food. Frankly, it doesn't take much to get me thinking about food.

My protagonist, Pat Montella, loves to cook. When I began the series, I wasn't much of a chef myself. My mom was supreme and undisputed empress of our kitchen when I was growing up. Once in a while, she'd indulge me if I wanted to try a recipe, but I never got those urges often. Why should I when she was such an amazing cook?

But when I was developing Pat's character, I knew I needed to give her some creative outlet for stress and boredom. She couldn't just slog back and forth to her dead-end job each day and watch TV at night. She'd be as dull as she thought she was.

I considered hobbies I'd done first, simply because I knew about them--needlepoint, embroidery, macrame, woodworking, music. Nothing seemed to be a good fit for Pat. Cooking kept niggling at the back of my mind, but I resisted it. For one thing, since Pat was Italian-American, it seemed stereotypical. For another, I'd have to do RESEARCH. You can't make someone sound like a good cook if you have no clue yourself.

I didn't decide for sure until I was writing Pat's first scene with Miss Maggie. All of a sudden, Miss Maggie asked if Pat could make tomato sauce and Pat said yes. That recipe, Grandmom Montella's Zucchini Sauce, I got from hanging over my mom's shoulder at the stove, taking notes as she made it, writing down her measurements for ingredients--that is, a palmful of oregano, a fistful of basil leaves, etc.

My mom died a couple years ago, and about the same time, I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance (meaning a lot of packaged foods are taboo), so I had to, at last, learn to cook. I found out that I love it as much as Pat. I now have some of my recipes online. You can view them at (or just google Sparkrecipes ElenaSan).

As I get time, I'll be putting Pat's recipes up on the site, in a virtual cookbook titled "From the Pat Montella Mysteries."

As for today, I plan to make a big pot of chicken corn soup. I also remember my mom saying how her mom would lean out their window, scoop fresh snow off the porch roof, add vanilla and sugar, and voila, Italian water ice. Well, the snow on my porch roof now is already up to the window, so....

Who needs milk and bread?


1 comment:

DGags said...

I'm thinking chili if I have enough for today and tomorrow. We'll see!


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