Confession No. 116 – Why some boys should be more like their moms (Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli)

Want to know how a girl will be when she grows up? Go no further than her mom.

That young lady might be quiet and unassuming now. She might not be wearing turquoise-colored eye shadow or dye her hair in the loudest shade of red. She will though. I’ve seen it a million times. She’ll also become boisterous in criticizing her husband’s beer consumption and video game playing. It happens, which is why I studied my mother in-law intently before committing to her wonderful daughter.

But boys becoming their fathers? Who knew?

My father has a demeanor like few men (or women) that I know. He rolls out the red carpet for everyone, including people he despises. He is giving — and expects nothing in return. And he’s reticent in his approach to any conversation, but not so much that he’s muted.

It should go without saying that I didn’t inherit too many of my father’s traits. It appears that my son was equally unfortunate. For opposite reasons.

The poster
I had Farrah Fawcett — still the bestselling wall poster of all time. My son, I discovered recently, has two unknown women. Scantily clad. Gazing into one another’s eyes. Hell, who am I kidding? This pair is on the verge of kissing!

Unlike his father, Chris placed his work of … art on the back side of his door. Thankfully for him, I discovered it first.

‘So, what do you think, Dad?’ he asked with a smirk on his face.

My response was simple.

 ‘If your mom finds it, I never knew it existed.’

Then I began thinking about the repercussions should she find it when I’m not around, and my son throws me under a bus to escape her wrath.

‘Look, Catherine, I need to tell you something and I don’t want you to get all bent out of shape about it,’ I later told my wife. ‘Chris has a poster of … questionable taste on the back of his door.’

‘A poster of what?’ she asked, somewhat confused.

‘It’s of a couple of women. No big deal, except you might be better off just not looking at it.’

After explaining to her that our son’s actions were just a rite of passage, Catherine was sufficiently convinced to leave it alone. Though she did have a parting shot.

‘Are all men just born to be perverts?’

I didn’t respond.

Snuff dipping fool?
One of my favorite movie scenes comes from The Fighting Sullivans, a 1944 film unfortunately based on the true story of five brothers who died on the same sunken ship in WWII. The film provides us a peek into the boys’ childhood, including one incident when they were caught smoking corn silk. Instead of becoming whipping posts, the boys were introduced to real tobacco and urged to inhale deeply. The scene wraps up with all five boys bent over a tub — hurling their breakfast.

I can only hope it works that way in real life. At least occasionally.

‘Dad,’ Chris said to me a few months ago, ‘I tried snuff and it’s horrible.’

‘Yes,’ I responded, ‘I gave you the really strong snuff when you were about six and you nearly threw up on the patio.’

‘I tried it again and it’s still just as nasty,’ he said, handing me a can of tobacco. ‘Here. You can have it.’

‘I don’t want it,’ I said. ‘But how did you buy it? You’re not legal … On second thought, I don’t want to know.’

I experimented with chewing tobacco at age 11 with a similar reaction to my son’s. My persistence, however, led to years of a nasty expensive addiction.

‘Look Adam,’ my wife said a couple of weeks ago as we were moving my son’s furniture. ‘Chris is dipping!’

She held up an empty tobacco can. The look on her face was a combination of disappointment and anger.

‘No, Cat. Look, I didn’t tell you this, but he bought that can months ago and approached me to tell me that he didn’t like it,’ I explained. ‘That’s just the empty can. I had a pyramid of those things on my dresser when I was a kid.’

‘Yeah! Because you chewed the nasty crap!’ she retorted.

Oh, how I hope my wife’s intuition is wrong — that Chris might just be as foolish as his father. Oops.

The obscene gesture
Chris this past week called me at work to tell me that the battery on his truck was dead. I told him to get a jump and head to the battery store. A few minutes later he called me again.

‘Dad, they’re saying that this is the wrong battery for this truck,’ he said.

‘Well, let them know that they selected, installed and accepted my money for that battery,’ I responded.

‘Really? You want me to tell them that?’

Realizing that he was in over his head, I called the store and spoke to the assistant manager.

‘Well, even if we did put this [wrong] battery in your truck, it doesn’t really make any difference,’ the man told me.

‘Then, why would I ever buy the big expensive version — if it makes no difference?’ I asked.

‘I know what you’re trying to do,’ the man responded. ‘You’re trying to get a free battery out of us and I’m not going to let that happen.’

The conversation went on long enough for me to get the contact information for his supervisor. After explaining to the very polite lady at the corporate office that I wanted to go wring this jerk’s neck, she offered to buy my battery. I refused. But I did request that she personally take care of the blockhead at my local store. She let me know that she would and again apologized.

That was all I needed to write a letter to corporate to let them know that this lady saved a customer. In the process of writing the letter — only minutes after our conversation — my son called me again.

‘OK,’ he said. ‘The battery is installed. I also needed new leads. They made someone else help me and (the assistant manager) didn’t make eye contact with me.’

‘Good,’ I said.

‘But, do you want to hear something funny?’ Chris asked. ‘As I was backing out of their parking lot, he came outside to check someone’s battery. So, I rolled down the window, yelled his name and then flipped him off.’

For his own sake, I hope my son begins taking after his mom. Immediately.

Want to receive notifications of my Confessions in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. ‘Tis the Season’ Hawkins at The Underground Writer  for editing this piece.

I was sort of a late arrival to the homestyle Italian food scene. It was a cold evening in early 1995 and my wife and I stopped in at Vesuvio, a mom & pop restaurant on Route 9 in Forked River, NJ. I’d planned on something with eggplant, but Catherine urged me to try a hot bowl of pasta e fagioli — pasta and beans (soup). After just one steamy spoonful, I became a fan of the soup for life.

Some cooks (and restaurant chains) like to add ground beef to the recipe. Feel free, but it’s not necessary. What is necessary, especially if you order a bowl of this stuff north of Baltimore, is to pronounce it pasta fah-zool. Hey, when in Rome … or New Jersey.

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli is traditional stick-to-your ribs goodness. Molto buono!

Pasta e Fagioli is traditional stick-to-your ribs goodness. Molto buono!

3 TB – Extra virgin Olive Oil
3 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 – Celery ribs, finely chopped
1 – Small onion, finely chopped

28 oz can – Crushed tomatoes w/ puree
4 cups – Vegetable (or beef/chicken) stock

2 15½ oz cans – Cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed

1 TB – Dried Basil
2 tsp – Dried Rosemary, crushed
1 tsp – Dried Thyme

8 oz – Ditalini (or other short-cut pasta), cooked al dente and drained.

Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
Grated Parmesan or Romano, for the table

In a small stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté garlic and onion in olive oil for 1 minute. Add celery and sauté for another minute. Add tomatoes, stock, Basil, Rosemary and Thyme. Bring to a light boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Add beans. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook until warmed through, about 5 additional minutes. Season as desired.

Serve with crusty bread, for mopping. This recipe will make enough pasta e fagioli for 5 people to eat it as a main dish — plus leftovers.




  1. My mom did the same thing with her four kids using cigarettes that you did with your son and snuff. She sat us on the front porch and let us puff to our hearts’ content. Although my three siblings hated it then, they all went on to use tobacco later. I loved it then (and still do), but have never used it because it’s just so, so bad for me. I’ve not made Pasta e Fagioli yet. Silly, silly me.

  2. I hope he takes after your wife too – stat! She sounds lovely.

  3. loved it…brought back memories of some snuff dipping where I grew up, and the Farrah poster….still have one on the back of a door…

  4. LOL, as always, good read. And those little fagioli, why can’t I find those in Denver????

  5. I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award, because I like your blog: (you don’t really have to do anything; just letting you know).

  6. I have all the ingredients for this and tomorrow and the following day off ( still eating up unused PTO before I lose all of it.) It is cold up here, we just went though quite a storm so warm, hearty soup sound wonderful.
    I loved the story about your son. It reminds me of a certain mom and certain daughter. She is quite certain. Certain she knows absolutely everything. I did too, at one time.
    I am just sitting back and watching. She is 27 and married. She is on her own. I have said all I can. But…. she is quite certain she has this life thing down. I happen to know, at 62, it ain’t so.
    I adore her.

    • adamjholland says:

      This is a good old school soup, Jill. Warms your bones and sticks to your ribs. As far as the kids knowing everything, well.. It’ll come back to bite ’em. 😉


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