Therese Ambrosi Smith is a writer- check out her work here. She spent four months constructing a modified Tumbleweed for use as a mobile writer’s studio. She loves cooking and eating as much as she loves writing and building things. One example of a recipe she's cooked in her tiny kitchen - that her guests have loved - is wild rice and mushroom soup. Her regular contribution to this blog, “Meals on Wheels," addresses the challenges and rewards of working in a tiny kitchen.
I love to invite people to dinner -- I like cooking and eating -- but I also enjoy sharing our tiny house. Folks with thousands of square feet marvel at the comfort possible in our 286 sq ft home, carved from a single car garage. With leaves in the table, we handily host gourmet meals for eight.
Recently we downsized our office, building a new space based on a Tumbleweed design. We work efficiently in the 84 sq ft trailer. As an author, I’m trilled to have my workspace double as a mobile retreat and guest cottage. An inflatable bed and RV toilet are employed when we need to house visitors.
We made the decision to rent the “main” house for income when I decided to live more creatively. The journey began with shedding a mind-numbing job and the trappings it provided. Designing a functional living space was task one.
Everyone who decides to downsize - and designs his own house - goes through the very healthy exercise of defining what’s important. We determined that our most used room was the kitchen - and we used it for non-eating activity too -- from conversation to crafts. The table was central to our plan.
We spent as much time planning the space as building it. Everything we thought we’d need was measured and plotted on graph paper before the first board was cut. The garage conversion took four months of weekend work and now, after four and a half years -- and a novel and a half -- I think it was the smartest thing we’ve ever done.
Living small became fodder for fiction. My first novel “Wax” was about young women coming of age in the shipyards during WWII. If you’re familiar with the history, housing was in very short supply in war industry towns. Parking Lot C, in the Kaiser shipyards, became a village of Airstream trailers for the duration.
When “Wax” was nearly ready to print, I was asked to provide two pages of filler. The printer’s final page “signature” is produced in multiples of eight, so my 334 page book was a little short. What would be worth printing? (Clue: the women are eating spaghetti in two important scenes.) Sylvia’s Famous Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (As adapted for the two-burner propane stove in Airstream No. 28).
Back home in Kansas City, Sylvia would spend all day on a rich meat sauce starting with garlic and olive oil and cubes of pork and beef shoulder, seared at 475 degrees for half an hour. She’d transfer the meat to a big stock pot with two quarts of broth, veal bones and vegetables. A long, slow simmer in the broth would tenderize the tough but flavorful cuts of meat, and to the whole she would add tomatoes and the remaining seasonings. The sauce would then simmer for another six hours until the meat fell apart. Everyone she treated to a serving of her Famous Spaghetti Sauce said it was the best ever.
She refined her technique — using ground beef — so she could make “Camping Spaghetti Sauce”. In her tiny Airstream trailer, with few cooking utensils, Sylvia did her best to recreate a favorite meal for her friends.
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced onion
¼ cup minced carrots
¼ cup minced celery
¾ lb ground meat – can be pork and beef mixed
1 C whole milk
2 C dry white wine
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes packed in juice
1 Tbsp oregano – fresh, minced
one more tablespoon minced garlic
salt to taste
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over a very low flame and add two tablespoons garlic. Simmer the garlic very slowly until tender. The more slowly it cooks, the sweeter it will be.
Add the carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the onions are soft. Do not brown. Add the cloves.
Add the ground meat and stir to heat evenly for about three minutes, until the meat is gray but not browned.
Add the milk and allow it to simmer until evaporated, about twelve minutes; follow with the wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes with liquid and the oregano. Allow the sauce to simmer on the lowest possible flame, for three more hours. Thirty minutes before it’s finished, add the final tablespoon of minced garlic. Add salt if desired.
4 Servings Enjoy!
“The time went by so quickly; we never had a chance to make plans,” Doris said. “When the ships on the line are launched we’ll be sent home too.”
“Now come on girls,” Sylvia said. “This is our last night together in The Land of C. Let’s have a little more optimism. We’ll be at peace soon.” She adjusted the seasonings and gave the sauce a final stir. Her red hair color was starting to fade. “All those love-starved men will be returning to wine and dine you marriage-age treasures. Life will be good,” Sylvia said. She looked at Tilly.
Sylvia drained the spaghetti into a bowl and loaded three plates. Then she ladled the rich meat sauce on top.
Tilly took the first bite. She twirled her fork and wrapped the length of the spaghetti around the tines. “Thank you so much, Sylvia. I’ll never forget this meal.”
From “Wax”, by Therese Ambrosi Smith