History and me + a recipe for Bolognese that would have amused my dad

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PaperCranes
1,000 origami cranes. Image/Wikipedia

mise en place


Friends,

Earlier this month was Father’s Day. It was not the intended motivation for me to write this but the connection is unavoidable. 

A few weeks ago I was reading a New York Times article about the annual G7 meeting. There is nothing interesting about a contrived photo-op of seven presidents, prime ministers and other delegates. Nothing is ever decided and nothing is ever accomplished. No grand economic treaty is concluded only speeches rich with hyperbole, then the whole thing is quickly forgotten. What struck me was not what was happening but where: Hiroshima

The word Hiroshima is enough to create pictures in anyone’s head of mushroom clouds and apocalyptic destruction. Because of the meeting, newspapers, magazines, documentarians and bloggers all latched onto the location. I read and heard accounts from survivors, debates about the reasons for the use of the bomb and the implications for the whole of mankind with its unleashing. Historians have made it their life work delving into the records of meetings with President Truman and his military advisers leading up to the decision and documentaries about the Manhattan Project seemed to be everywhere. Heart-wrenching accounts from survivors were hard to read. World Peace organizations took out full-page ads in prominent publications and have used Hiroshima as their defining mantra and a warning to civilization.

There will be no end to the debate as to the why, and there is no doubt that history’s timeline is divided into before the bomb and after. So what connection did my father, myself and my brother for that matter, have with this event? My brother Michael, his daughters and their children and of course myself, are here. 

My father was drafted in 1945 a few months after the end of the war in Europe. As a 19-year-old he was excited because the war in Europe was over and most, including himself, thought the Japanese were as good as defeated so he hoped it was a chance to travel overseas. He was shipped south to Louisiana for training and to his surprise and for reasons he could never figure out was chosen for battlefield medic training. He was going to be part of the intended invasion of Japan. Less than two months into his training the bomb dropped and the war ended. He spent a few more months in the Army, was discharged, and to his disappointment never had a chance to travel outside the USA until much later in his life.  

Historians have said that the president was told the cost of the invasion would be over a million U.S. casualties, over 30 million Japanese and as a front-line medic, my father would most assuredly would have been one of them.

I was never able to imagine my father as a soldier and especially not a trained medic. He was calm, good-humored, even-tempered and quick to laugh. The image of soldiers landing on beaches as in Saving Private Ryan with my father being one of them, is for me incongruous yet that is what would have happened. So the bomb dropped, my father came back to NYC and I was born.

The connection between my life and Hiroshima has never been far from my thoughts. Every August on the anniversary of the bombing I read the articles by historians who debate the accuracy of the information Truman received and describe the mood of the country as war-weary and not ready to absorb the tragedy that would result from invasion. I watch the films taken soon after the event and think in horror of that happening here and now. Then I remember my father who I was gifted with due to that momentous decision. 

A few years ago Claudia read an article about the tradition of folding origami cranes in memory of those who died in the bombing and as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. She then decided for personal reasons to take part and subsequently folded 1,000 colored paper cranes. The repetitive act she said was meditative and calming. 

All of us alive in the present are connected to past events and decisions made by others. Historical events and their subsequent repercussions linger and cannot be changed. One way or another they affect us all. No one can be comfortable with the nuclear state of the world, but as a consequence, I had a father.


MELTED LEEKS AND FENNEL WITH LENTILS PEPPERS AND TARRAGON 1

“Meat sauce” as my father called it when ordering Bolognese in a restaurant was one of his favorites. I am pretty sure what his reaction would have been if this recipe was put in front of him. It would have been hilarious. This vegetarian take on the classic is just as rich and satisfying. 

1/4 pound Oyster mushrooms

1/4 pound Crimini mushrooms 

1/4 pound Portobello mushrooms

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrot 

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup red wine 

1/4 cup olive oil 

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme 

1/4 cup tomato puree

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1/4 cup grated Parmesan 

Kosher salt and fresh  ground pepper 

1/4 cup cream or ricotta cheese

After washing and drying the mushrooms (scraping the black fins from the portobello) place in a bowl, and lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. In a preheated 350-degree oven and on a baking sheet roast the mushrooms for 25-30  minutes. Let cool then chop saving all the liquid.

In a preheated pan on medium heat add 3 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the vegetables and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another  3-4 minutes. When the tomato paste is cooked turn up the heat and add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce, thyme leaves, red pepper flakes and mushrooms with their liquid and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. For service re-heat the sauce adding either the cream or ricotta. Toss with pasta, serve over polenta or top a pizza with the grated Parmesan.

Let me know how it turns out or feel free to drop me a line edandclaud@gmail.com 


 

About this Author

Edward Aloise

Edward Aloise Previous Co-Owner/ Chef of Republic Cafe and Campo Enoteca and currently the principal in Republic Restaurant Consulting.