My mother said he came in from work that night and ate a big supper. Then he sat at the table by himself and finished what was left of a bottle of whiskey, a bottle she found hidden in the bottom of the garbage under some coffee grounds a day or so later. Then he got up and went to bed, where my mother joined him a little later. The next morning whens he looked in on him, he was on his back with his mouth open, his cheeks caved in. Gray-looking, she said. She knew he was dead—she didn't need a doctor to tell her that.
—"My Father's Life," Raymond Carver
This essay is tinged with regret, confusion and sorrow—many of the emotions most of us experience when we try to think and write about our parents. When I read it, I thought about what I'd like my last meal to have been. The thing about last meals is that you never get to have another one. So you had best make sure it's darn good. I've given it a lot of thought, and I'm pretty sure that mine would include a large plate of roasted brussels sprouts and linguine with meat sauce. It's my favorite supper.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed at stalk and cut in half lengthwise
4 cloves of garlic, cut in half
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400 °F. Spread the brussels sprouts and garlic in a large baking dish and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake until tender in the middle and slightly charred around the edges, about 40-45 minutes.
Linguine with Meat Sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey)
2 carrots, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
1 box of mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 lb. dried linguine
1 25-oz. jar tomato sauce (the 365 Organic Eggplant is pretty good, in my experience)
1/2 cup milk
Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until fragrant and translucent (about 5-10 minutes).
Add the ground beef and cook until no longer red. Add in the carrots, celery and mushrooms and let cook until carrots are tender (another 15 minutes or so).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente by following the directions on the package. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
Add the tomato sauce to the skillet and stir until combined. Once it's bubbling, stir in the milk and reserved pasta cooking water. Season with red pepper flake, salt and pepper until it tastes as hot, salty and peppery as you like.
To plate, spoon pasta sauce over the linguine and add brussels sprouts on top. Dig in!