Spaghetti can get you wed.

Yes, that’s clickbait right there. Hear me out, it’s a sweet story about how I won the heart of my Preggie.

The Prelude: Concordia Irvine

I got into cooking when I have a kitchen at the student apartments. At that time, my alma mater’s upperclassmen living quarters are apartments, not mere dormitories, while freshmen live in dormitories. I would say “I’ll be back in the barracks if you need me.” After I spend my freshman year, the barracks seemed spartan and I was ready to live in an actual apartment.

At the same time, I was hanging out with the pre-sem Confessional crowd, who made theology look like serious fun. They were liturgical, they were heavy thinkers, and they seek the finer things in life– good food, good beer, cool music. I was unable to drink as I was underage, but I had a cookbook and the internet.

I turned 21 and at the same time, I discovered wine. I became the university’s student wine expert. I would read Wine Spectator and Wine X magazine. Wine X was not stuffy and old-school. It was not pretentious, gourmet without the snobbery. I came across this recipe for Caesar salad, in which one Toronto woman claimed that she would “get laid” everytime she prepared her salad. I learned that if I were to be successful in love and adulthood, I would need to cook good food. Soon, I became the Confessionals’ grill mistress. I would make batches of meat sauce and fed anyone who want spaghetti.

After I moved to Fort Wayne, my wine skills followed with me. I ordered wine via phone and circumvented Indiana state laws to get some exclusive vintages. Then, I served wine to my classmates. My spaghetti became a cult classic.

One Month after Symposia 2002

I met Preggie and we hit it off instantly. About a month in, I knew that if I want to secure future happiness, I must cook my spaghetti and serve it to Preggie. An unwritten rule of a budding relationship: You must cook a meal for your date. It will make or break it. The factor was that Preggie was a widower, which meant that 1) his late wife Evie cooked for him and 2) at the current time, he mainly eats at fast food places or made stuff via microwave. I figured that if I cook something homemade, I better cook my signature meal.

I visited Kroger’s and gathered the ingredients. After that, a trip to the liquor store for the sweet sparkling red wine. I made garlic bread with real butter and cheese. (It was a recipe I learned from a PBS show. Very easy to make.) By memory, I made my dad’s sauce: tomato puree, browned ground beef, chopped onion and garlic, bay leaf, herbs, parmesan cheese, s & p to taste.

Preggie came by and smelled the air. “Wow. Smells great.” I boiled the thick spaghetti, it was the Barilla brand as I prefer a thicker strand. I served him the garlic bread and wine. He smiled as he bit into the hot slice of bread. The noodles were ready. After draining, I served into two plates and gave each plate a generous ladle of meat sauce. I brought the dish before him and I awaited his reaction. “Ah! Spa-get!” Preggie took a bite. He smiled wider.

“Last time I had spaghetti that good, it was when I was in Denver over 50 years ago.” He told me of this now-defunct place where his family ate and he thought it was the best spaghetti he ever ate.

Score.

Years later, a stint as a sample lady gave me insight and a theory. I called it “The Flavor”. The Flavor is that key gustatory moment in which it sets the standard of what is truly delicious. It is nostalgic in nature. Once a person enjoyed a particular bite of food, they will compare future meals and snacks to that moment, chasing The Flavor. It could be as simple as giving a kid crusty bread with Irish butter (that’s a future story) or serving someone a homecooked meal. By evoking Preggie’s childhood memory, I evoked The Flavor.

To quote Public Enemy:

Kickin’ da flavor gittin’ busy
Ya goin’ out, I think ya dizzy
I think ya hungry, ’cause ya starvin’ fa flavor
Flavor most, put it on toast
Eat it-en taste it en swallow it down
Imperial flavor gives you da crown
Of the king called Flavor, da king of all flavors

It was a coup that did cement my status as marriage material. For many years after, I would cook this dish regularly for the both of us. I knew that it will convince him on some deep primordial level. Wayne enjoyed food until shortly before his death. One August morning, he was unable to eat anymore as the food would go into his windpipe. So the hospital installed a stomach tube. After recovery, he went back to his dorm…and he breathed his last. I think Preggie did not want to live in a world without the ability to taste food.

Nowadays, I would occasionally cook a meal, sometimes for my job coach. It keeps me happy, though I dread cleaning up the frickin’ mess. One of these days, I’ll cook my sauce. Maybe my rector and his wife would like that.