Confession No. 82 — Rudeness is unbecoming. More so for some.
‘I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.’ — Capt. Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) in Lonesome Dove, after beating a man nearly to death.
Out of certain people I expect certain things. But, like one of my favorite movie characters ever, I’ve yet to find a good reason for rudeness. No matter your accent or circumstances, rude is rude. It’s unacceptable always — and even less acceptable with certain people.
This past week I attended a conference in Corpus Christi, TX. If you’re not familiar with Corpus Christi, it’s a small city of about 300,000 people situated on Texas’ lower Gulf Coast. While there are 500 other Texas cities that I’d rather visit, the ocean breezes are constant and the place is quite scenic, for the most part. — OK. That was rude. Sorry Corpus Christi. My bad.
Our conference was held at the city’s most celebrated hotel. Every room has a view. Every employee aims to please. And, as usual, I witnessed someone taking advantage.
‘OK, Ma’am, we’ll get these bags up to your room immediately,’ the young bellhop said. ‘Would you like us to park your vehicle?’
‘No, I told the lady at the desk that I’d be self-parking,’ she responded bluntly, as if the guys working the entrance should somehow have ESP.
‘Sure thing,’ the young man said. ‘Well, you’ll want to take a right from the driveway and the parking garage is —’
‘I know where the parking garage is,’ she interrupted. ‘Please close my trunk. I’m tired.’
‘Yes, Ma’am,’ he politely responded as he reached up to pull down the hatch on her older model Toyota 4Runner.
‘Pull lightly,’ the woman barked at him. ‘Do not slam it!’
As this short exchange was going on, I looked at my wife and shook my head.
‘Do you think this woman needs hormone therapy,’ I asked my wife?’
‘Well I was this close to telling the lady to shut her own damn trunk,’ she said as we walked toward the entrance.
The rude woman, by the way, was among about 300 public relations specialists attending our annual conference to help us brush up on our skills. Yep. Public relations.
As it goes, I’ve seen my wife go head to head with a New York City parking lot owner. I’ve heard her blast the owner of the most highly rated Italian restaurant in Dallas. I’ve seen her jump up at a conference with my sons ‘team’ of teachers and rebuke one particular teacher in the heaviest of New Jersey accents. (It was awesome.)
In all of those cases, someone had been rude to her.
At the end of the conference, as I was checking out at around 11 a.m., I stood next to a man trying to check in. (Check-in time is at 3 p.m. at this hotel, and it’s clearly posted.)
‘I checked in electronically,’ the man told the desk clerk.
‘Yes, Sir. And it looks like everything went through fine,’ she said. ‘If you’ll just stop by this desk in a few hours, we’ll get you a room key.’
‘I can’t have a room key now,’ the man asked, surprised?’
‘Sir, there are no rooms available at the moment,’ she responded. ‘Guests are still checking out and our cleaning staff are working to make the rooms ready for you.’
‘Well … I don’t know what we’re going to do for the next few hours,’ he said, frustrated. ‘This is ridiculous.’
As the man walked away from the check-in desk, I noticed his badge. It said ‘Clergy.’
If only my wife had been there to rebuke him.
Tonight, millions of people will see some of the best fake smiles ever; some of the world’s most popular (and richest) people patting themselves on the back; and plenty of shameless plugs for overpriced (borrowed) clothing items and gaudy accoutrements. It’s Oscars night.
I’ve not watched the annual three-hour ego fest in several years, and it’s primarily because they don’t have a category for best food/cooking scene. While there have been some really memorable vignets of the epicurean variety — Jack Nicholson in ‘Five Easy Pieces;’ Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in ’9½ Weeks;’ and the strüdel scene in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ — my favorite of all time comes from ‘Goodfellas,’ in which several wiseguys share a large cell in a federal prison. Because they are ‘connected,’ they are able to get ingredients from the outside. The scene showing ‘Paulie’ (Paul Sorvino) slice the garlic with a razor blade makes me hungry for New York Italian-style ‘Gravy and Macaroni’ every time.
Is it ‘sauce?’ Or is it ‘gravy?’ Arguments can be made either way, but one thing’s for sure. It’s good. Our version of Sunday Gravy (called such because many people cook this on Sundays) includes chicken, instead of the traditional meatballs. Mix up the meat ratios however you desire. Throw in some beef or veal shanks, if you choose. There are no two Sunday Gravy dishes that are alike.
Sunday Gravy with Pasta
1 lb – Pork chops or pork ribs, trimmed of fat
1 lb – Hot Italian Sausage
3 – Split Chicken breasts, bone-in (or 1 lb – Italian meatballs – see note)
3 TB – Extra virgin olive oil
4 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 – 28 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 – 12 oz can Tomato paste
Beef or veal stock (optional)
2 tsp – Dried Thyme
2 tsp – Dried Oregano
1 tsp – Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup – Fresh Basil
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. pasta
In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chops (or ribs) and cook for about 2 minutes per side, browning lightly. Set browned chops aside, and repeat with sausages, then the chicken breasts.
Your pan should have a little extra oil. If not, add another TB, or so, of olive oil. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add tomato paste and a couple of (12 oz cans) of water. Combine. Add crushed tomatoes and 2 (28 oz cans) water or stock. (Your sauce will be thin. No worries.) Add dried herbs (thyme, oregano and black pepper), then add meat to sauce.
Bring sauce to a light boil, then lower heat to medium/medium-low (you want a light bubbling simmer). Cover loosely, so that steam can escape and sauce can reduce slightly.
Cook over low heat for about 4 hours, skimming as necessary. Add fresh basil during the last 15 minutes of cooking.* Serve over al dente pasta with warm bread for sopping.
Serves 5 (with plenty of ‘gravy’ for leftovers)
*Note – I like to remove the meat after about 3 hours so that I can also remove any stray bones. This is especially important if you are using meatballs, as they are very fragile. I then reduce the sauce over a slightly higher heat for the final hour, adding the meat and basil back to the sauce during the last 15 minutes of simmering.