Sloth, Wrath and Spaghetti Sauce: A Tale of Woe

October 17, 2011

Reason I Suckity-Suck #255: When it comes to volunteering for the school PTO or in Miss D.’s classroom, I am one of those people who hems and haws, shuffles her feet, duffs around and then mumbles, “Well, if you need money for supplies or decorations, let me know and I’ll shoot you a check.”

Alas, dear readers, I am that lady. The Shoot You a Check Lady.  Gaa, the shame of it.

Actually, this year I’m doing better, because I’ve found enough room in my heart and in my schedule to volunteer in D.’s classroom for three whole hours a month. I assure you, this is a big deal. I am waiting for my tiara to arrive.

One area I can be counted on? Food. If I cannot shoot you a check, I will make food.  Over the last few years, I’ve made lots of food–chili, soup, chowder, slaw, fajitas, you name it–and happily schlepped it to the teacher’s lounge on parent/teacher conference nights.  Those teachers are dedicated professionals who have managed to teach my child necessary things without the use of whips or numchucks, which is hot-dang impressive if you ask me.

Usually, the PTO organizes the meals for parent-teacher conference nights by theme (eg: Mexican night, soup night, tailgate night). It’s fun, and an easy way to ensure that there’s not a lone green salad and 20 desserts on the table when conference nights roll around.

This year, however, the PTO decided to get creative on us.


Imagine my surprise the other day when I opened my email, expecting a plea for taco filling or tomato bisque, only to find the following missive:

Greetings, PTO volunteers!

It’s conference time again! This go-round, we’ve decided to go with the theme of The Seven Deadly Sins! (kind of spooky and Halloween-ish, don’t you think?)

Below is a list of sins you can sign up for–please try to match your dish to the corresponding sin. Be creative and have fun!

Your Friendly PTO

Um, whaddaheck?

I was also so late in responding to the email that I couldn’t score any of the good sins. I mean, come on, Gluttony is dead easy and Lust just translates to “bring chocolate.”  What I really wanted was Sloth, so I could pick up 4 buckets of Kenfucky Fried Chicken* and  be done with the whole business, but of course, that was taken too.

Thus, I found myself saddled with Wrath.

Food that’s full of bile and bitterness? Not a friendly prospect. Who wants to eat food that’s pissed off?  Plus, don’t you think a teacher, facing several nights of excruciating meetings with demanding suburban parents, would definitely avoid anything reeking of Wrath?

But, hey. Wrath’s what I got, so I had to work with it.

I decided to make Pasta Arrabbiata (angry pasta), which isn’t such a hard thing to make, really, but I was flush in the middle of one of those weeks from Hades. You know the ones: the car has some weird light on the dashboard blinking, the washing machine starts making wonk noises, your body shifts overnight and none of your jeans fit, the little one has green boogers and the older one decides to run for student council, the voles reappear in the yard and dangit, the homework this week is fractions.

Please tell me you have weeks like this.


That kind of week is why I found myself, the morning of parent-teacher conferences, sneaking down the Italian aisle at the Kroger, cloak-and-dagger style, plopping industrial-sized jars of shitty spaghetti sauce into my cart and rubbernecking like mad, hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.  Ah, how the mighty do fall.

I stuffed my shameful cargo into the trunk of my MomCar, drove off, and screeched into our cul-de-sac. Grocery bag in hand, I hustled up the driveway, and then…

Well, you know what happens, don’t you? Those paper grocery bags aren’t worth shizzle, which is why people unafflicted by the sin of Sloth tote those canvas bags to the grocery store, smile their benevolent, enviro-conscious smiles, and safely carry their organic bananas inside the house.

Paper bag+Gi-normous jars of crummy, pre-made sauce=sidewalk suicide.

My entire neighborhood now knows me for a fraud. It looked like a scene out of Scarface on my driveway.

On the bright side, some neighbors were thrilled at the sight and smell of PregoGate. Namely, the wasps living in the nest above our garage that I didn’t know existed until the volcanic eruption of said sauce on the driveway.  Those sleek-bodied suckers swarmed down like nobody’s business, making me wonder about the amounts of sugar lurking in pre-made sauce.  That stuff is wasp crack.  Even I, the poster child for sloth, was horrified.

I hooked up the hose, rustled up some buckets, and cleaned up the evidence.  I swatted wasps, called Mama and my husband, cried and then laughed, and returned to the grocery store, where I bought simple ingredients for a simple sauce.  It’s the sauce I should have made in the first place.  Ah, these life lessons–they come hard, no matter the age.

Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce

slightly adapted from Mark Bittman

makes enough sauce for 4 servings (can easily be doubled or tripled)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes

1/3 cup fresh parsley or  basil leaves, torn

1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chiles and garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic becomes toasty brown but not too dark, about 5-7 minutes. Remove garlic from pan.

Take the pan off the heat and crush the tomatoes with your hands over the skillet. Add tomatoes and the liquid to the skillet. Season with a little salt and pepper and put back on the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is saucy and slightly thickened.

Stir in cheese.

Toss with 1 pound cooked pasta and add the basil or parsley. Add more cheese, if desired.

*Kenfucky Fried Chicken is not, in truth, a real chain. However, I used to babysit a little kid who loved the stuff, and he would beg his parents to “Go get Fucky Fried Chicken!” What can I say? It stuck.

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