Mama’s Final Test – Friday Fictioneers

“What’s the big deal?” Loretta struck a tango pose.

“Alone,” Tony said, dipping Loretta. “You must cook for my mother. She’ll watch.” Her final test.

“Teach me everything. We’ll rehearse.”

They shopped for fresh herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and a red wine to pair with the chosen dish: Spaghetti alla Matriciana.

“A family recipe, Tony?”

“I have faith in you.” They spun around the simmering sauce and pounded the pasta to perfection.

The day arrived. Mama chewed her first bite. “A bit bland,” and pushed the plate away. “Did you salt the pasta?”

“Of course she did. Right, honey?”

Pasta fail.

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Genre: Humor (100 words)

Photo copyright:  – Dawn Q. Landau

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Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the Fictioneers, and to Dawn Landau for this week’s photo.

Whenever I think of salt, I think of cooking. And bacon. This week’s story was inspired by the Olive Garden’s rating of “poor” on their pasta report card. They don’t salt their pasta, you see.

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52 thoughts on “Mama’s Final Test – Friday Fictioneers

  1. Interesting piece about the rites of passage in families and cultures, here the rites of passage necessary for marriage. At first I thought Tony was going to arrange for Loretta to fail so he could get rid off her (“Sure, pour that chocolate syrup into the pasta!”) by having the mother disapprove, but then I saw it was something more subtle — how the smallest details we tend to assume can trip us all up. Incidentally I heard today that Olive Garden does not salt its water either so that it can get a longer warranty on the pots. Guess the chef there won’t get married into an Italian family either!

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    1. Thank you, Perry! I think there are rites of passage in every culture. I’m glad this wasn’t my fate. I rely on recipes, simple ones, and I hope they turn out. Interesting that you had a different read initially. I went way over and had to chop so much. I think it kind of starts in mid-sentence…which I rather liked after all. Chocolate syrup in the pasta. That would be really funny and a DOUBLE FAIL!

      I heard that about Olive Garden. You know their pots must be cheap, too! I haven’t been there for years. I guess I haven’t been missing much.

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  2. Amy, Good story. In India girls are taught to cook from about the age of twelve or younger. It seems to be understood that the girl can cook. I don’t know if there’s a test. My mother-in-law was in India when we got married. I’ve always done as you do. I follow recipes. Indian women think that’s funny. They have recipes, they’re just memorized from practice. Spaghetti is one thing I “can” cook from memory. I use bottled sauce though. I think a lot of younger Italian women in the U.S. probably do these days also. I know an Italian descent woman I worked with did. I don’t know what her mother-in-law and mother thought of that. Well written and humorous. 🙂 —Susan

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    1. Thanks, Susan. I envy those people that can cook with no recipes. The dish is just a part of them. I have a few dishes like that, but they’re very basic ones. I grew up with spaghetti dinner that my mom made over the course of a day, at least 3 hours. I hardly have time to make it, and it had served so many so it’s not as practical for me to make. When I do make it, it always feels like home. Otherwise, I go for easy and convenience. I think cooking can be a critical thing in other cultures. It’s just something you know. I’m tickled my son wants to learn how to cook. I hope I don’t let him down. 🙂

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  3. I don’t salt my past either. Of course I don’t eat pasta so it makes no difference to me. He-Who has already had one heart attack and he adds salt to everything, before he tastes it, so I stopped cooking with it.
    Women will always have to compete with their mother-in-laws in the kitchen. We will always have to hear, “That’s not the way my Mom did it”. It sounds like this fellow has his priorities straight by supporting his lady. 😉

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    1. I have to watch my salt too, Michelle. Heart disease runs big in my family, and I already have high cholesterol. I do add salt to pasta and rice, but I didn’t use to. And now since Olive Garden, well I must! I will probably even add a little more, because I never put too much in. Cooking is a fascinating thing across cultures, isn’t it? I always try to improve my cooking, because I didn’t get all the lessons. It’s a lot of trial and error, and hoping. At this point, it’s also a matter of hoping my kids will eat. They can be so picky. I agree, I think Tony’s heart is in the right place. 🙂

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  4. lol i have a feeling that as far as the mother-in-law’s concerned, Loretta’s cooking will never be good enough for her baby boy. but it doesn’t matter… Tony and Loretta will simply laugh about it 🙂 sweet story.

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    1. You’re probably right, KZ. I think Loretta has her work cut out for her, that’s for sure. She may never please her mother-in-law. I think she came awfully close to making her happy with this meal. Missed it by just a smidgen! Tony and Loretta will always have each other. Thanks.

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    1. Ha ha, Bjorn. Haggis. That would serve her right, huh? No more complaining out of her. 🙂 I suppose there will always be more tests. Loretta will be second-guessing herself for a while I bet.

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  5. Hi Amy, I bet you are a good cook. My four sons married girls that outdo me in so many things and I love them all as much as my sons. I’m a pretty good cook (I’m wearing a lot of it) but when we got married, I didn’t know how to cook – I was always calling my mom and then slowly I learned. I can make about four or five dishes really well – and I make pretty good biscuits and gravy. I use Aunt Jemimah buttermilk pancake mix – and real butter. My youngest son’s wife is a wonderful cook – she makes wedding cakes and cake pops, she’s amazing! I love your story and it’s a very clever take on the prompt! Nan 🙂

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    1. Hi Nan, I manage in the kitchen. There’s room for improvement. Sometimes, I am pleased. Other times, not so much! My son wants to learn how to cook, so that makes me happy. I hope I don’t disappoint him. I still feel like I struggle through. Mostly, it’s hard to come up with ideas for picky eaters. I wish I could make a wedding cake. Cake pops I would attempt. Thanks, Nan. Glad you enjoyed my story.

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  6. Wow, there is some pressure for you. I was nervous enough when I asked my father-in-law his permission to marry his daughter, let alone if I’d had to prove myself some way. It’s always the little things, like salt, that get you. Great story. I hope the girl can redeem herself somehow. 🙂

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    1. Isn’t it always the little unmentionable things that, whoops, there it all goes? If I had to pass this test, I think we would have had to elope. Maybe they can do a tango to wow the mother-in-law. 🙂 Thanks, David.

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  7. The first time Connie came to my parent’s house for dinner Mom served squirrel and dumplings. It wasn’t exactly a rite of passage, but gave Connie some idea of what kind of clan she was marrying into. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! I almost ran a little squirrel over today, Russell. Poor little thing. I can’t imagine eating him. Well, maybe in the zombie apocalypse. There’s that. I’m sure that left quite an impression on Connie. 🙂

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  8. Nice piece, Amy. Honestly, I was sad to see it end humorously… I found the first part so tender and sweet! I wanted to see her do well. I love the way you tied in dancing to the cooking. I feel like this could be a much longer story, with wonderful emotion. Loved it.

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    1. I can see that being a good ending, too! But in the spirit of the Olive Garden news, I chose the no salt pasta version. Thanks so much, Dawn. I’m so happy you enjoyed it! I came up with something finally. It only took me two days. Thanks for the photo. It inspired so many great stories this week.

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