Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with Peas and Prosciutto, and Part 22 | Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with Peas and Prosciutto, and Part 22

March 5, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Posted in Dinner, Lunch, Pasta, Pork, Vegetarian | 69 Comments
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Is anybody still out there?  I hope so.

Creamy Tomato Alfredo Linguine. My most requested sauce.

I’m so sorry for the exceedingly long delay of this story and my absence from blogging in general. I truly, truly feel awful about it, and I’m so happy and relieved to finally get something up.  As many of you know (that is, whoever decided to stick around, and again, so, so sorry), I’ve been sick for some time and it’s been extremely difficult to pull off even the most mundane tasks.

Since last June, for about 5 months, I could barely write, much less peel a carrot.  I was able to get in a paragraph or two maybe once a month and that was what I called a good month.  Around January, I felt a little better so I started writing a little more. Upon first preview, I was startled to see how much I’d written.

I decided to split it into two parts because if I posted it all at once, it would literally swallow up my tiny blog.  Normally, it would be about three or four parts, but I can’t do that to you all after such a long wait.  Since it’s completely finished, once this post marinates a bit, I’ll put the last part up.  I’d say one week, give or take a few days.

Of course I couldn’t put this post up without a recipe, since it is a food blog.  Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t play and had to choose something basic and simple (with a little help), but basic and simple doesn’t make it any less amazing.  In fact, it usually makes it more amazing and difficult because every single facet must be spot on, and every ingredient top notch, since there are no extraneous components and preparations to hide behind.

Furthermore, this recipe sort of ties into the story since it’s a derivative of an alfredo sauce I make via cutting down the cream and adding tomatoes.  But, I shouldn’t refer to my favorite alfredo sauce as alfredo because true alfredo does not contain even a speck of cream. To digress somewhat, authentic alfredo is a remarkably creamy amalgam of just butter, parmesan cheese and pasta water, – and, when done right, it’s actually better than alfredo made with cream.  I know, shocking, but it makes up for it with twice the butter!

I digress.

I would have much rather posted one of the amazing cakes, pastries or breads that have been blistering my brain for 8 months running, but due to my current circumstances, those ideas can’t be fully executed yet.  I miss playing with batters, dough, fillings and frosting, so much so, it literally breaks my heart to tears. Not being able to cook or bake feels like someone brutally ripped a pacifier from my mouth and won’t give it back. SO, hopefully sooner than later.

On another note, I forgot how awful it is not having enough natural light to take photos in.  Heavy duty bummer moment when I uploaded these photos, especially after months of pinning other blogger’s gorgeous, naturally lit photos. Why did I think it would be any different this time?  Well, I’m mostly to blame because I let my tower of pasta sit too long before snapping away.

Now that I’ve waxed kvetchic, I want to share with you one of my favorite and most requested pasta dishes. If you don’t like prosciutto and/or peas, of course you can eliminate them.  This sauce is perfection on its own.

Creamy Tomato Alfredo Linguine.  My most requested sauce.

Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with (or without)  Peas and Prosciutto (Tomato Alfredo)
4 – 6 servings
Peas and prosciutto optional since the sauce is phenomenal on its own

Print - Highlight the recipe, then right click on it and choose print. in the drop down menu. Voila..only the recipe prints, nothing else.

1 pound linguine (any other pasta is fine and fresh is ideal since sauces cling better to fresh pasta)
kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with liquid
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas*
1/4 lb sliced prosciutto (taste it before buying, you don’t want it too salty)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese..
red hot pepper flakes (optional, the amount depending on how hot you like it)
chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)

* I couldn’t find any fresh peas, so I had to use frozen.  However, I highly recommend fresh since the frozen just don’t compare in flavor, unless I just got a really bad box of frozen peas.

DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water plus a generous pinch plus of kosher salt to a boil (about 1 tablespoon per 2  quarts water, so 3 tablespoons in this case).  Taste the water, it should be salty like the ocean.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, pour the can of tomatoes with juice into the work bowl of a food processor.  DO NOT turn on the processor at full speed because you will end up with pink foam.  Just pulse until you have a smooth puree.

3. Over medium heat, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep pan or skillet.  Add the chopped garlic and chopped shallot to the oil.  Saute until soft and translucent, then slowly pour in the pureed tomatoes and their juice.  Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, seasoning it with salt and pepper to taste as it simmers (go easy on the salt because of the cheese that will be added).  If you’re using the red hot pepper flakes, add them now.  Simmer until it reduces a bit about 10 to 15 minutes tops.

4. While the tomato sauce simmers, add the linguine to the boiling pot of water and cook until al dente (about 6 to 8 minutes, keep checking by biting into a strand).  In the mean time, once the sauce has simmered for 10-15 minutes, stir the 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the peas and let them cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their size (fresh peas are bigger).  Slowly pour the cream into the sauce, swirling the pan and stirring, then add the sliced prosciutto, stirring to distribute it evenly.

5.  Immediately drain the linguine, pouring some of the pasta water into a cup in case you need to thin the sauce once the cheese is added.  If your pan or skillet is big enough, dump all the linguine right into the sauce and toss, adding all the parmigiano-reggiano cheese at once and tossing over the heat until it coats the linguine.  If your skillet or pan isn’t big enough, dump the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce and cheese on top of it, tossing until all the pasta is coated.

If the sauce is too thick once tossed with the linguine, thin it out with some of the reserved pasta water.

6.  Top with the chopped parsley (if using), some extra fresh ground pepper, and serve immediately, passing extra Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Now, and finally, part 22.  This one was so incredibly hard to put up.  In fact, it took me a week to gather the courage to hit publish, once it was ready to go . I could go on about the reasons why, but I’ll save that for another day.

If you’re tuning in for the first time, here are the previous parts to this story. Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE,  Part 14B is HERE , Part 15 is HERE, Part 16 is HERE , Part 17 is HERE and Part 18 is HERE, and Part 19 is HERE., Part 20 is HERE, Part 21 is HERE.

Creamy Tomato Alfredo Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

Dreamboat turned around slowly to face the cement wall and put his hands against it, the same wall he had been kissing me against just minutes ago.  It was amazing how quickly a romantic night could turn into a night behind bars. While I watched the cop pat him down, I couldn’t help worrying that he might have a joint in his pocket or wallet. My stomach tied a new knot every time the cop’s hand patted then disappeared into a pocket.  Four on his jeans, three on his jacket.  Seven knots total.  Then I remembered he sometimes slipped one in a sock.  Nine knots. Bile started to rise up my esophagus as the cop snaked his fingers beneath each hem, literally patting down his socks.

Obviously Dreamboat’s three second slice of attitude didn’t sit well with this cop, and he was going to make him pay, even it meant patting down his socks.

The cop stood up and stepped back..seemingly satisfied.  Okay, I thought, nothing on his body, so far so good. I felt the bile that was slowly creeping up my throat, temporarily pause, then watched helplessly as Dreamboat was cuffed regardless, so the cop could search his car. He would definitely find something in his car!  I thought in a wild panic. The bile started creeping again, looming dangerously near my lower wisdoms.

I couldn’t take it anymore – I was scared out of my flippin’ mind, so with a big, fat side of tears, I started to beg the cop not to arrest him;

“Please don’t arrest him, officer, he’s in a bad mood, he didn’t mean to respond to you in that tone, I swear!  He’s a really good guy..a law abiding citizen!” When he’s not occasionally sucking on a joint, that is.

Yes, I really said that, minus the marijuana jab.

The officer ignored me, and Dreamboat shot me an icy look.  Macho BS.  No guy wants his girl begging a cop not to arrest him.

Thankfully, there were no illegal substances in his car, which the cop searched for what seemed like an hour.  He was looking for anything to arrest him.  I watched him rifle through some of his CD’s.  I could hear it now;

“You’re under arrest for the possession of loud, obnoxious music by a band that hasn’t been together in a million years.”

Instead, he looked over at Dreamboat, holding up a CD, and said “This is my favorite.”

I unleashed a huge sigh of relief as he walked over to Dreamboat and unlocked the cuffs.

“This is now private property, you can’t hang out here anymore” He muttered gruffly while turning the key.  The loud click of the handcuffs opening soothed me like no binky or blankie had before.

Geez, he couldn’t have said that in the first place?  Dreamboat looked pissed as hell.  His jaw was clenched, which was a big time warning sign that he could blow a gasket at any moment.  To avoid another confrontation, which would most certainly result in his arrest, I intervened with what I thought would loosen his jaw and soften his steely glare;

“I’m ready to start looking for a place, baby…if you still want to.”

I wasn’t being entirely truthful, but at that moment I would have done/said anything to calm him down.  He turned to look at me, a small smile cracking at the corners of his lips.  I could almost see the anger slowly seeping from him, like a drag from a cigarette exhaled ..curls of smoke unraveling, then slowly evaporating into the night air.

Intervention successful.

“You sure?” he asked.  “Yes, I’m sure.” I answered, feeling a just tiny bit queasy as I watched the cop drive away slowly.

Yeah, I know..an anticlimactic end to that situation after months and months of waiting, but believe you, me…it was a relief of epic proportions.

The following Saturday morning, we went to see some funny car races down the shore with his brother, P, and a few of P’s friends.  I’d never been to one before, but saw the commercials on TV. Are they supposed to look or be funny?  They just looked like pimped out race cars to me.  Regardless,  I was always up for new experiences.

We drove in Dreamboat’s car, which was a two-seater, while P went with his friends in a beat up SUV. By the end of the races, rife with Italian Jersey guys morphing into tobacco chewing, JD swilling, NASCAR fanatics, replete with faux southern accents and aphorisms (“Doggoneit, you go now, boy!”), every single one of P’s friends was drunk, including the driver.

P begged Dreamboat for a ride, which would render his lap my new seat. Dreamboat would have none of that. Instead, he took the keys from the driver, told them all to wait there and that we would be back with a neighbor’s pickup.  I loved him for that, until P said…

“Sorry we’re gettin’ in the way of youse guys lookin’ for a house.” …while nervously kicking some dirt in front of him.  Apparently, the parent-child dynamic between the brothers was still in full effect years later.

Huh?  I looked at Dreamboat, confused.  He said nothing until we were on the road.

“I wanted to surprise you with a few houses I thought we could look at.”  He said as he shifted into 5th gear, not once taking his eyes off the road.

So, we were going to live down the shore?  The decision had already been made? WHOA, we were really looking at places now..and the rest of the weekend? And, what was this stuff about a house?

Then I remembered that night on the beach, the summer before my junior year of college when he asked if we could live down the shore because it was his dream.  I remember it felt safe to say yes (I was a little tipsy, if you recall) because I had two more years of school and it seemed so far off.  For all I knew, I would be ready by then.

Apparently, I wasn’t.

Now the moment was here, reality smacking me in the face with houses.  But, I did tell him I was ready to start looking, even though it was mainly to chill him out.  Wow, there was no backing out now.  I loved him madly, but again, wasn’t quite sure I was ready to shack up with the intent of marriage and babies.  I had dreams to fulfill, goals to chase, many more girls night outs  and Tower Records runs.  Add to that, cobalt blue and lime green face masks, PMS zit popping, and the comfort of late night repeats of classic TV sitcoms to fall asleep to while my half-eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s melted in the carton on the dresser.

Plus, how in the world was I going to explain my random need for feetie pajamas in the winter? Even worse, how was I going to dance to bubblegum pop music in them?

Tomato Parmesan Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

After he borrowed a shore neighbor’s pick-up and unloaded the guys at their destinations, it was time for the inevitable. It was getting late, so he could only convince one landlord/owner to show us one of three places he’d looked up in the classifieds.

We pulled up to a small, white shack, the type of house a bunch of 18-year-old to early 20- somethings would rent for the summer.  I looked at Dreamboat, gauging his expression. It was blank.  He had a knack for hiding his true feelings with a blank stare.

I was still baffled as to why he never bothered telling me that he wanted to go straight for a house.

“I thought we were looking at apartments?” I asked nonchalantly, although what I was feeling was miles from nonchalant.  Somehow, an apartment seemed less foreboding, less of an immediate life commitment, than a house – an actual house!  I was only 22! Each surprise was getting harder and harder to digest.  I swallowed hard, trying to dissolve the lump in my throat and metabolize the blocks of fear in my belly, blocks that were stacking up quickly.

He squeezed my hand..”Why go for an apartment when we can have a little house of our own..you know, a starter house?  The price is really good, much cheaper than back in North Jersey.” He said, his voice oozing with first buyer pride.

One of the blocks shot up my gullet.  I unconsciously rubbed my chest and throat.

North Jersey…we hadn’t even looked in North Jersey, where I’d still be near my friends and family, maybe living in one of the pretty high-rises along the Hudson, or even a walk-up nearby, alongside other couples not ready to take the plunge and pop out rugrats like Pez candies.  I think.

My scary thoughts were interrupted by the oncoming headlights of a car. It was the owner/landlord.

The landlord was a woman in a housecoat, my nightmare couture.  She couldn’t have been more than late 20′s to early 30′s, but looked 40.  She was wearing raggedy flip-flops and her housecoat was dabbed with faded pink peonies, although some of them may have been spaghetti sauce stains that didn’t come out in the wash.  Her over-bleached hair was striped with dark brunette roots where it parted, almost the same shade as the dark circles under eyes which is what aged her most, probably from five kids hanging at her feet most of the day. Yep, five kids! “Sorry I’m late, I had to wait for my neighbor to come watch my five kids.” She sort of mumbled as she led us to the door.

Young and stuck, I assumed.  I couldn’t help wondering if her husband was a ‘Dreamboat’ whom she fell head over heels for and made a life-changing decision to hold on to.  Maybe she was regretting it at times, possibly demonstrated by the weariness in her voice as she wrestled with the key to unlock the door.

“I think this this key is rusty.” she said with a dull finish, pent-up exasperation oozing with every attempt to turn it.

When she finally opened the door, the smell of dampness and must hit immediately, sea air contained in a small space for too long.  I could see many a party had been had by the marks on the walls..parties by carefree kids, like I once was – no pressure, only here to enjoy the shore for a few weeks, not live permanently.

“Here’s the living room, and you’ve got two bedrooms and one bathroom in the back.  The kitchen is small, but it’s workable”, she said quickly, dying to get this over with.

I looked at the kitchen and then Dreamboat.  He was hoping for some kind of approval, anything. I felt horrible because thus far into the tour, I couldn’t give it to him.  He started talking about what we could do to make it nice, sounding like the incarnation of Bob Vila - adding on, gutting, plastering, painting and then selling it for two or three times the price when we could afford something bigger and better a few years down the road.

I surveyed the surroundings, looking for something to change my mind.  Nope, it wasn’t going to happen, especially when I saw a hole in the floor of the second bedroom – well, let me rephrase that, the big closet with a ratty sofa bed.

I unconsciously wrinkled my nose as I shook my head no.  Damn, that was a spoiled brat move.  I was ashamed of myself. This didn’t deter him one bit;

“That’s alright, I had a feeling you might not like this one, but it was worth a look, right?”  He said as he hugged me to him with one strong arm, kissing my forehead.  I relaxed for a moment.  Then it hit me, there was probably more of these types of shacks coming the next day.

Shit.

When the tour de shack was over, we were famished.  What felt like the longest day ever was finally over.  He wanted to stop at this cheesesteak stand on the boulevard in Seaside, a place that held fond memories, memories of our early days together on his day off.  He would order a giant, drippy cheesesteak sub loaded with perfectly grilled, tender slices of steak. caramelized peppers and onions, and gobs of gooey cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Since there were only a few stools, he would sit on a stool (or vice versa) and I would stand between his legs (or vice versa), sharing this dream of a sub, seeing who could take a bigger bite, wiping each other’s mouths sloppily and laughing our asses off . I kind of wished I could transport us back to that time, just so I could get back some more time before the big move in decision.

I closed my eyes and tried to make it happen. No dice.  I pondered astral projection, but only for a second.  Then I realized I’d have to do college and our brief, albeit super painful, breakup, all over again.  Download aborted.

I snapped back into the present.  Food.  Hungry. At first I was more than game to revisit the old cheesesteak place, but then I had an idea.  I’d been cooking and baking a ton at home and wanted to put together a nice meal for us back at his shore house.  We knew P wouldn’t be there because he had plans to go to Atlantic City with a local girl he was seeing.

Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

We headed to the market where I gathered the ingredients for a romantic indoor picnic. A variety of cheeses and fruit. some fresh fettuccine (I had not even attempted homemade pasta yet) and, at his request, the ingredients for my ‘famous’ alfredo sauce with fresh peas, crab meat and prosciutto, which I’d conquered a few months before after loving it at a restaurant back in North Jersey. His eyes widened in shock and he let out a low whistle when I chose the really pricey jumbo lump blue crab meat plucked fresh from Barnegat Bay earlier that day.

I was well on my way to culinary freakdom..

Some diet coke and a bottle of cheap white for me and beer for him, and we were good to go.

After cooking, I set the scene for our romantic picnic, pushing furniture out of the way so I could spread a huge blanket over the center of the wood floor, lighting candles at a safe distance around it and on some of the end tables. My inner Suzy Homemaker was dialed up to 10, and he loved it, most likely because he was picturing me doing it in our own house, for him and our 5 kids.

We dug in ravenously, barely speaking, just enjoying the ambiance and food, waiting until the first sign of fullness before uttering a word other than ‘Mmm, good’.  While I was entrenched in twirling a few stubborn strands of fettuccine around my fork, he spoke;

“The few places left to see aren’t much different than the one we just saw..you know, fixer uppers, starter houses.  If you want to start off with an apartment back in North Jersey, I get it…it’s okay.” He said softly, as he ripped off a hunk of bread and used it to wipe the sauce off his empty plate.

I was so elated by his change of heart, I bailed on the fettuccine fork and hugged him, almost knocking him backwards.  Then I saw it, just as the hug broke, a flash of disappointment in his eyes.  It was so quick, I would have missed it had I not been watching his beautiful baby blues for a reaction.  Then he smiled and it seemed so genuine, that for a brief second I thought I might have imagined it.  But, deep down I knew that that brief, cloudy moment in his eyes was probably more genuine than his million dollar smile.  I wiped it from my psyche fast, I wanted to pretend it never happened.

Then he cracked a joke about how living in a litter box would be a step up from the house we looked at.

The minute he said that, I felt awful. I hoped he didn’t think my reluctance was due to the place being a complete dump because that didn’t matter to me, and I told him so. It could have been an opulent, 20 room mansion with a theater, tennis court and pool, and I still would have been spooked.  It was too quick, too much at this moment in my life.

“As long as we can move forward, I don’t care where it is.” He said cheerfully.

Big time brownie points for blue eyes. I decided I would make him brownies the next day, a huge pan of brownies, enough brownies to wipe away the guilt I was feeling.

For the rest of evening, I tried hard to erase that momentary shadow in his eyes, still trying to convince myself that his latter reaction was the real one.  But, it remained there like sticky sludge and no matter how hard I scrubbed, it wasn’t budging.  I just hoped my love for him was enough to eventually melt it off. Then again, why couldn’t my love be enough to make an immediate life commitment to him?

To this day, fettuccine reminds me of that 1 second of sad eyes.  Oh, look at that amazing plated fettuccine photo on pinterest!  Sad eyes.

Later that night, well, morning, around 2 am, I woke up dying of thirst, completely parched. I figured I’d OD’d on all that cheese we bought.  As I poured and took my first sip of water, I heard a car drive by slowly, the rumble loud and heavy on his ‘pin drop’ silent street. I thought nothing of it and continued to drink my water while leafing through a makeup catalog addressed to his mother.  A few minutes later, the car rumbled by again, this time stopping briefly, then continuing on.  Maybe someone is lost, I thought, still thinking nothing of it.  By the third time, I grabbed a cigarette and went outside for a smoke, and maybe an investigation.

Yeah, I forgot to mention that I smoked on and off back then.  Disgusting habit and he hated it, so I mostly refrained when with him.

I sat down on one of the front steps and lit up, waving my hand to bat away the curls of smoke with each drag, watching and waiting for this mysterious car to take another lap. Just as I stood up and stubbed out the cigarette in a patch of soil at the bottom of the steps, I heard the rumble, then two beams of approaching headlights illuminated the street from about about a block away.  The slow rumbling became louder as it got closer.  I jumped up and opened the screen door, keeping my finger on the outside light switch.  I was going to blast it so I could get a good look at who it was.

Sure enough, the car slowed down when it hit Dreamboat’s shore house, followed by a flash of beady, bright red lights as whomever it was tapped the breaks to slow down even more.  I quickly turned on the light in my ‘GOTCHA!’ mode and caught a fleeting glimpse of long, light brown hair beneath a baseball cap.  That was it.  She was too quick, a seasoned stalker.  She hit the gas and peeled out with a high-pitched screech, leaving a stream of exhaust in her wake.

I ran up to the bedroom and dove belly first onto the bed, percolated and perky from my detective work. Dreamboat opened one eye, then rolled over to go back to sleep.  I nudged him in the ribs a few times. He had to know immediately!

“Hey, wake up, some chick is stalking you!” I whispered excitedly as I continued to nudge him.

He rolled back over slowly, groaning a bit, then rubbed his eyes and opened them as best he could.  “What?” he asked in a gravelly voice.

“I said, some chick is stalking you!  She just drove by four times – FOUR times!  I said, my voice rising as I held up four fingers on one hand to emphasize it, almost pushing it in his face.

I continued to regale him with my brilliant investigative prowess; “SO, I turned on the outside light just as her car pulled up and…” He interrupted me before I could finish.

“You smell like smoke.”

“Who cares?!  Some girl is stalking you!” I said again, increasingly impatient with his lack of interest.

“Go guzzle some mouthwash.” he demanded playfully.

“But, some girl is stalking you!  Don’t you care? I do!” I blurted out loud this time.

He raised himself up on his elbows and just looked at me, his eyes still at half mast. Then asked,  “Did you even think it might be for one of my brothers?”

He had a point.  I surrendered.

“Now go brush your teeth.” he said as he lowered himself back down and rolled over on his side facing me, his cute, come-hither smile too hard to resist.

I got up and did what I was told.  Not that it was anything I wouldn’t have done anyway, but now the incentive had a reward attached it.  From that moment on, the stalker girl was forgotten and never brought up again.

The next morning, we went out for breakfast/brunch.  One of the waitresses in the restaurant had such pretty, super-duper long hair, that I couldn’t help mentioning it to Dreamboat.  I told him that I was going to let my hair grow to that length, as I twirled a strand of my slightly longer than shoulder length hair around one finger.

“Your hair is nice, but it isn’t thick enough to get that long.  Her hair is super-thick and coarse, yours is medium-thick and silky.” He said nonchalantly while spearing a piece of sausage with his fork.

I just looked at him, a little befuddled by his response.  Since when was he an expert on the science of hair?  Was he secretly moonlighting as a hairdresser?  After a few barbs like “Who are you, Vidal Sassoon?” and how I was going to try anyway, I dropped it and went on to enjoy the rest of my meal, but it still lingered a little because it was so out of character for him.

Suddenly, a picture of the drive-by stalker girl flashed in my head.  She had that type of super thick hair, so she could probably grow it that long, I thought.  The thought disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, and I happily returned to my meal, never thinking about it again.

Creamy Tomato Alfredo Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

Back in North Jersey, we looked at apartments but they were pretty pricey, and the affordable ones were dumps that made the shore shack look like a palace.  Yes, we could have tried harder, but it was almost as if it wasn’t as big a deal to him as it had been just weeks before.  I felt a slight sense of relief, but at the same time, worry.  He wanted to live down the shore more than anything, and I was squashing that dream temporarily. So, I chalked up his lack of enthusiasm to that and prayed we found something that would satiate him enough to put that dream on the back burner, at least for a little while.

Not too long after spending what snippets of time we could fit in looking at more apartments, it sorted of petered out and everything returned to how it had always been – enjoying the summer with him and a few nights a week with my friends or a combination of both, especially if there was a party in his ‘hood.  The discussions about moving in together were fewer and further in between, and we continued to see each other minus the pressure..well, pressure for me.

I was still working part-time at the tanning salon, which was 20 minutes closer to his town than my hometown, so when  I was done with work, around 10 pm, I’d take the top down on my car, crank up the music and drive to him.  I still remember how happy and free I felt on those warm summer night drives.  The weather was typically Northeast humid, the air weighing down on my skin like warm, damp clothes, but I liked how the muggy breeze felt as I drove. My hair, however..

When I got there, he’d be waiting, his arms opening for a hug.  He’d run his hands over my slippery skin, always asking; “Why didn’t you drive with the top up and the AC cranked?”

“Because I like feeling dewy!’ I’d respond, every single time.  Sometimes he’d take the opening and run with it, cracking a dirty joke or whispering something sexy. Sometimes he’d  say nothing and just continue to hug me, never caring how sticky I was.

There was always something raw and seductive about a steamy, muggy night in his inner city like town.  I still remember our slippery embraces on the crumbling sidewalks, arms sliding on contact with any shift of movement, and cool, damp sweat against my lips when I kissed his forehead or cheek. The smell of thick exhaust from loud, souped up cars on the avenue, and hot asphalt, permeated the heavy air, and distant shouts of profanity laced diatribes, peppered it.  It sounds strange, but the grittiness was truly glamorous, an ambiance only second to our nights on the beach.

This was all I needed at this point in my life. No more living together, marriage and babies talk – just love and fun each night until near dawn. I still wanted to make that commitment to him, but figured I’d be ready in about a year or two..and told him so.

“Don’t worry, baby..take your time.” he would say, which although comforting, was starting to disturb me a little.  It was too easy…way, way too easy.

Around mid-July his parents hired his construction crew, shrewdly taking advantage of the familial discount, to start building an addition onto their shore house since they would be moving down there permanently within a year.  He figured it would take about two weeks, give or take.  We decided I would come down on the weekends, switching out my Saturday afternoon gig at the tanning salon.

I got so caught up in work and friends that I never did make it down.  However, it’s not like he was calling and begging me to come, so I assumed they were working like dogs, and I didn’t want to be a distraction.  There was a lot of summer left and sometimes a little break is a good thing..or so I thought.

We’d talk on the phone once a day or night, so everything seemed cool, but I sensed a little distance at times.  I attributed that distance to him working hard and being tired, not to mention the return of the ‘phone hating’ guy from my early college years. I honestly didn’t think there was any cause for alarm. Besides, I was never the nagging type, and I wasn’t about to become the naggy girlfriend.

Once the two weeks were up, he called and said they needed to stay a few more days to finish up some painting.  I was so distracted by the fun I was having with my friends, I was actually okay with it, never thinking anything could possibly be off-kilter or worthy of suspicion.  I missed him, but knew all would be fine once we were face to face again, especially since he told me how much he missed me.

When he finally came home, we made plans to meet at the bottom of his hill in a parking lot because his street was so narrow, you could stand in the middle of it, arms outstretched, and almost touch two car doors on each side.  We’d started doing this a few months before when we watched a car come close to ripping off my car door handle as the driver skedaddled around a truck on the other side of the street.  Unfortunately, his driveway only had enough room for two cars..usually his parents and one of his brother’s, and the garage was tiny and used for storage.  Dreamboat parked his on the street – confident nothing would happen to it, and nothing ever did, but if it did, it wouldn’t have mattered because as he put it;

“It’s old, a scratch or dent won’t seize the engine. As long as it gets me from point A to point B…”.

I left work, excited to see him, but that excitement was not quite at the level it had been years before.  Typical long-term relationship familiarity.  Regardless, it was still enough to bring on the butterflies.  Tiny butterflies, but butterflies nonetheless.

I pulled into the lot, and he was already there in his usual position – leaning against a car with his arms crossed, a big smile on his face when he saw me.  I parked and got out of the car.  Suddenly the butterflies swelled to twice their size. Whoa, Nellie!  Having not seen  him for over two weeks, I finally noticed how much of a man he had become.  His hair was shorter, no longer brushing his collar, but still long enough that I could run my fingers through it with a little room to spare. He wore a black t-shirt, emblazoned with the logo of his construction company, tucked into faded jeans.  The t-shirt accentuated the broadness of his shoulders and fully showcased his perfectly muscled, lightly tanned arms.  His body was thicker now, from all the construction work, and well, getting older.  He looked freakin’ amazing.

I stood demurely in front of him, my hands clasped behind my back, waiting for him to make the first move.  I felt shy.  I started to blush.  Geeez…what this man could do to me was unreal.  Here I was thinking I had grown into a confident, young woman, yet here I was blushing and feeling like a teenager again.  Out of sight, slightly out of mind – in sight, crazy out of my mind. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder, I thought, and then I felt my legs gel a little.

Yep, grownup, confident, now experienced, lipstick wearing woman slowly fades to black – enter love struck, cherry lip glossed, teenage girl.

He leaned forward and pulled me to him by the front waistband of my shorts..wrapping me in his arms tight, then gave me a huge, playful kiss on the neck, blowing to make a noise, like a parent does to their small child’s belly. He’d never done that before, but I thought it was cute and returned the favor.  He smelled so damn good, although it was a new scent..a more mature scent, perhaps? No matter, all was good again, we were back.

Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

And then he kissed me.

It didn’t feel right.  We usually melted into each other and it had been like that since that very first, magical night when I was 15 , squished together in his refurbished Beetle, parked facing Barnegat Bay. He was kissing me differently..so much so, I felt like I was with another person, another person who was an absolutely atrocious kisser. It was almost sloppy, definitely awkward, and worst of all, no love, passion or heat.  I pulled away and looked into his eyes, waiting for him to laugh and tell me he was just having fun with me, then pull me in for the real kiss.  It didn’t happen,  His eyes were question marks, begging – what did I do?  I couldn’t help myself..I just blurted it out;

“You’re kissing me weird..it’s different.”

“What are you talking about?”  He asked, his blue eyes laced with amusement.  “What’s different?”

How could I tell him it sucked?  How could I word it?

“It’s just different.  It’s not how you usually kiss me. It doesn’t feel right” I answered, tentatively.

Instead of responding, he turned me around, pushed me up against my car and started kissing me passionately.  At first it was still off, but then it slowly reverted back to the way it always was, mostly because he followed my lead. Soon I forgot about the dreadful ‘stranger’ kiss and we were walking back up the hill to his house, his arm firmly around my neck, my fingers entwined in his dangling hand.  Once we got there, he lifted me up, threw me over his shoulder and marched my rag doll body up the stairs while I chirped away in fake protest stippled with laughter. He turned the corner to his bedroom and plopped me gently down on the bed.  A tickle fight ensued, and again, all was good, until it got serious.

He was touching me clumsily, like he was unfamiliar with my body, reaching for things that weren’t there (yep, I wasn’t blessed in the upper region), fumbling and rushing,  It was rough, uncomfortable and incredibly disconcerting.  It was as if I was one of those bimbos the guys on the Jersey Shore TV show picked up at the clubs, but only if they were DTF (If you ever watched the show, you know what that stands for..if not, it’s an abbreviation for an easy lay – Down to F**k), and didn’t care that they were being used..just a ploy to get on TV.  Fame whores and gold diggers whom they treated as such.

Yes, I did watch the show, mainly to see Seaside.

After about 20 minutes of this..I’d had enough.  I pushed him off of me and sat up.

“This doesn’t feel right.” I said, searching his face for clues that might explain this sudden deviation from the man I knew and loved.

He looked at me, but it was if he was looking right through me, his eyes wholly devoid of any emotion. I remember thinking his pupils looked like pools of cold, dark, polluted water.  East River pupils.  He told me, in a slightly irritated tone, to relax and stop analyzing everything.  It was so unlike him..who the eff was this person?

I stood up and told him I wanted to go home.  He tried to pull me back and dissuade me, but it was a little too elaborate to be genuine.  Something was up and I didn’t like it nor feel comfortable enough to continue or even hang out with him for the remainder of the evening. He finally gave in and let me go, walking me back down the hill, although I walked a good two feet in front of him. My emotional state was a combination of anger and confusion, overwhelming any desire to talk or look back at him.  He didn’t try to catch up with me…just walked slowly behind with his hands in his pockets.

Again, who the eff was this person?  Suddenly, the love of my life was a complete stranger.

After a few minutes, I wanted to turn around and look at him, but couldn’t because all I could see was red, a deep, hot flaming red, and I wanted him to feel its burn so he would react in some way, shape or form.  How could he have treated me like that and be so indifferent about it?

I was cognitively pleading with him. Do something, say something, come walk beside me..react, dammit!  But he didn’t.

As mentioned above, he had been a little weird on the phone when he was away so my optimism and what I thought was logical reasoning, was so off base, I would have been tagged out with nary an effort.  That phone person was the one who had fumbled me roughly and carelessly, like an attempt to hold onto a wobbly thrown football in a game that didn’t matter.  At that moment, I had been an object, not the supposed love of his life.

My thoughts were scattered during this suddenly long, uncomfortable walk.  He smelled different (he was not a cologne guy, but knew I loved one in particular and always wore it for me.  This night, for the first time in a long time..he didn’t.), looked different, felt different and acted different.  Invasion of the freakin’ Dreamboat Snatchers, I thought.

When I reached my car, I still refused to turn around, just got in, slammed the door shut and peeled out of there as fast as I could.  I didn’t even look in my rear view mirror to see if he was watching.  I’d show him!

Tomato Alfredo Linguine with or without peas and prosciutto

After I calmed down a little on the drive home, I figured I’d overreacted due to a PMS lager monster brewing in my belly, its little pincers pulling at every last nerve, and it was probably just an aberration. Maybe he was tired? Maybe he felt weird after not seeing me for two weeks?  Wait, scratch that, I thought as I took a right past a couple fighting on a corner (hmm..was there a full moon out that night?), he was away from me for much longer periods of time during college and was never like that when we reunited. Regardless, I was sure there would be an apologetic and loving message on my answering machine when I got home.

There wasn’t.

And there wasn’t the next day either, but caller ID let me know that at least he made one attempt, but why wouldn’t he leave a message?

That night at the tanning salon, spurred on by the fact that he had tried to call, I decided to call him.   His brother P answered.

“Hi, P..is Dreamboat there?” I asked, hoping Dreamboat would run to the phone once he knew it was me.

“Hey, Lis..sure, hang on a sec.” He replied casually.

I listened as he yelled to Dreamboat that I was on the phone.  Then something weird happened.  I heard what sounded like muffled whispers.  P obviously had his hand over the receiver. Then, instead of Dreamboat’s voice, P came back on.

“Uhh..I think he went out, Lis, not sure when he’ll be back.” He said, unconvincingly.

I knew it was bullshit, I knew Dreamboat was there.  I felt sick.

“Really, P, or does he just not want to talk to me?” I asked, suddenly feeling desperate and incredibly vulnerable.

“No..he really isn’t here.” P said, again, unconvincingly.  I could tell he wasn’t comfortable lying to me.

I said goodbye and hung up.  I was really feeling sick now.  I had to know the truth, so I called Raven and asked her to call in a few minutes and ask for him.  Different voice, different result?

10 minutes later, Raven called back.  This is what went down.

Raven: “Hi, is Dreamboat there?”

P “Yeah, hang on a sec.”

Raven hears Dreamboat whisper “Who is it?” in the background.  P says, “I don’t know, just talk” and gives him the phone. P didn’t want to deal with this screening crap anymore.

Dreamboat: “Hello?”

Raven: “Hi, Dreamboat, it’s Raven..obviously you ARE home, could you call Lisa?”

Dreamboat:  “No..I wasn’t home, I had to go to the bank, just got back.”

Raven: “Okay, whatever..just call her.”

As soon as she finished telling me, the call waiting beeped.  It was him.

“Hey” he said nonchalantly..”I just went to the bank, no idea why P made it sound like I was out for the night.” he lied  “I tried to call you at home a few times, did you see?”

“Yeah, I saw, why didn’t you leave a message?” I asked, my guts twisting into tight coils.  This was NOT my Dreamboat.

“I dunno..you know how I am about the phone and answering machines” He said, his voice saturated in cool.

Answering machines too?  It was complete bull because he had left plenty of messages before, and I told him just that.

“Well..I guess I’m still a little pissed about what happened the other night” He sort of muttered, trying to convey anger with a faux edge to his voice. I knew when Dreamboat was mad and there was no anger here, just ambivalence.

Oh man, this was bad.

I decided to let it go because I wanted to make up and try and find out what had gotten into him.

“Okay, well..I can come by after work and we can talk about it if you want.” I said as I spun a pen around and around on a piece of paper, ripping it from the pressure, hoping his response would be a positive one. Say yes. say yes, please say yes.

His voice softened a bit and I braced myself.  “I’m sorry, baby, after what happened, I thought you needed some time to cool off, so I made plans to go to Virginia Beach for a 4 day weekend.  We’re leaving in a few hours – driving there.”

Virgina Beach??  WHAT?  Who did he know in Virginia Beach?  He’d never mentioned Virginia Beach ..ever.  In fact, outside of Jersey and NYC, he never expressed an interest in traveling anywhere.  Heck, he never even came to Boston when I was there, although, at the time, I was okay with that.

The thing is, I didn’t even ask who he was going with..I just assumed it was probably one of his construction crew friends who had a house or relatives there.  I still can’t fathom why I thought that.

“You’re going to Virginia Beach??  Why?” I asked frantically.

“I dunno, never seen it before, just decided to go.” He replied, still trying to sound edgy, but this time with a hint of cool again, as if I wouldn’t pick up on this subterfuge of vocal tones.

Instead of asking the usual questions any girlfriend would ask, I saw it as him blowing me off to make me pay for what happened that night.  I was positive he just made it up off the top of his head, not unlike when you spin a globe and wherever your finger lands is your travel destination, or made up destination.

Years later, I still occasionally wonder how I could have been so damn naive.

“Okay, if you go to Virginia Beach this weekend, don’t bother calling me when you get home, because we will be OVER!!” I shouted with authentic anger.  Ugh, I had turned into that girl.

He immediately shifted his tone into soft gear aka placate her, taking aim with his tranquilizer gun;

“Baby, I’ll call you the minute I get home and we’ll get together and talk, okay?”

Then “I love you”, which seemed so out of place and so, so wrong in this awful moment. He continued to repeat, “I will call you as soon as I get home.”, over and over, obvious filler to my sudden, shocked silence.  I finally snapped out of it and sliced through his repetitious chant with a jagged edge of bitch;

“NO!  Do not call me when you get home, we’re through!” then slammed the phone down hard, wishing he could feel it physically.

Now I was that girl and then some.  Dang.  I was not handling this well at all.

Creamy Tomato Alfredo Linguine with or without Peas and ProsciuttoI attempted to build a linguine tower with a fork and tongs.  Obviously, it didn’t work out too well. With natural light, it would have looked magnificent just dumped on a plate.  Without it, you need to get creative.

I waited, hoping he would call back, but he didn’t.  I sat there staring into space for a few minutes – completely numb.  I knew I couldn’t call him back because once I lifted the folded flaps in the corners of our relationship, he wanted something I was not ready to give him and that’s what I thought it was all about. It was him pulling away because he thought he’d never get that from me, right?

I still hadn’t cried.  I was grateful that there were no more appointments and I could close up.  I locked the doors, then grabbed a bunch of clean towels for the tanning booths and beds and started folding them, not feeling a thing – terry cloth anesthesia.  The numbness was more than welcome – a warm, cozy blanket that swaddled me tight and soothed, keeping me from breaking down into a heaving, sobbing mess. As I continued folding, the blanket began to calcify, hardening into an impermeable, granite like shield.

I think I’m going to be okay.

Once done, I started walking from room to room to place them on the chairs.  I felt lighter, and in fact, did I just detect a slight bounce in my step?  Yeah, I was going to be okay, I thought, smiling to myself.  Damn, I was stronger than I realized!

Then the opening guitar chords to Stairway to Heaven softly whispered through the speakers  - almost enjoying what it was gonna do to me.  My bouncy legs turned to jelly, but not in the way they did during those wondrous, early years with him. This was bad jelly, weak jelly, rip my heart out and carelessly toss it in the trash like an apple core, jelly. The granite like shield cracked, then crumbled as I slid down a corner wall, dropping the towels..and cried for a long, long time, a heaving, sobbing mess.

He called when he got home.  I didn’t answer.  I didn’t answer subsequent calls the next day either.  He even left a message once; “Hi, it’s me..I’m home, call me.”.  None of the usual ‘I love yous’ or sweetness.  He was cold, but at least he said something.

I decided to wait a bit before returning his call because I did end it, (even though I didn’t mean it) and didn’t want him to think he could treat me like that and get away with it. I hated myself for playing this game, but desperately needed to hold onto that last vestige of pride somewhere inside of me.

I finally broke and called him 3 hours later, completely wimping out on the the tough girl 48 hours I wanted to simmer in to save face.  His youngest brother answered and said he was working down the shore for the rest of the week, so I called him there.

Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with or without Peas and Prosciutto

A female answered and it wasn’t his mother.  I did a quick equation of deduction – both of his brothers and parents were back in North Jersey, so this female was his.

Part 23 coming soon.

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  1. Thank you for another installment! I was starting to wonder if I’d missed it.. I’m glad I didn’t! I am very sorry to hear you’ve been ill. Thank you for making the effort to reconnect and I hope you can get back to baking soon.

    • Thank you so much, Riversana, that means the world to me :)

  2. YESSSSS!!!i’ve always wanted to learn how to make a ”creamy tomato sauce”!! thank you!!! i’ll leave out the pork (and maybe add some wild scallions instead), but i know that sauce will be perfect :)
    your recipes always are-

    it’s funny, i can feel the mood and gist of your story through your pasta recipe!! so strange–and a great episode–well written !

    thanks for making my night :))))

  3. oh and loved learning about Alfredo’s as well–thanx! i had no idea, even though i did live and work in south central jersey shore!

    • Hi, again, johanna :) Of course you can leave out the prosciutto..and/or peas and add anything else you like. Just the sauce as is, is perfect, and that’s what I usually stick to. That said, can you really feel the mood of the story through the recipe? I guess I really let it rip this time, huh? As for the authentic alfredo, it really is remarkable – it’s all about technique over cream, although it doesn’t skimp on the butter!

      • wow-
        maybe you could do a post on the ‘authentic’ version?! if there’s anybody who could make that successful for a not-so-great-cook, it would be you-
        and hey, what’s not to love about butter ;)

        and yes, strangely, there is something about your story and the recipe, the way they were both written, the flavors, etc, that remind me of each other..well-done!

      • I was actually pondering that the past few days, except using a technique so I can cut the butter in half and make it even creamier! I think we’ve had ‘brain waves’ ;)

  4. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I received the email telling me you posted. I’m so sorry you’ve been sick, but glad you’re well enough to write again because, Girl, you wrote the hell out of this part and I was completely fixated for over an hour! I’m almost afraid of whats coming, but I can’t wait! You really need to start writing books, seriously.

    • Wow, Katherine, thanks so much for that. Like I mentioned above, I really let it rip this time. As for writing a book, uh, no..lol

  5. Sorry you were under-the-weather but I’m glad you’re back blogging.
    And you don’t have to appologize(!)
    Awesome dish – I can almost smell the aroma
    I loooooooooooove it

  6. I’m so sorry to hear that you have been sick. Good to know that you are feeling better now…

    This tagliatelle dish is mouthwatering! A fabulous combination of ingredients.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  7. You should write a book. Seriously.

  8. Hope you are feeling better! So glad to see you writing again.

    • Thank you, Braebella! Very cool and pretty name :)

  9. Oh, Lisa, my heart is beating so hard for you! If it’s what I think it is..there is no worse feeling!! This was so beautifully written, so honest and raw….especially the part about the zit popping and jammies! I’m so glad your back and hope you can bake some awesome cakes soon! Waiting with baited breath for the next part!

    • Thank you, Dina..I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! The zit popping and jammies,well, it’s who I am, or who I was at that time, rather, no matter how embarrassing or OTT.

  10. Welcome back!!! i don’t know if i can wait another week for part 23, but i will and while i’m waiting, i’m definitely making this pasta! I used to make something similar, but using soaked sun dried tomatoes and sausage.

    • Hi, Kelly! Thank you! Your pasta sounds great. Could you email me the recipe?

  11. I have been checking your website every few days since November. I am SO glad to hear that you are feeling a bit better (I don’t even know you and I was getting worried at the absence). Your story was gripping as always. So tragic that you tied this part of the story with an alfredo recipe. :( I will definitely try this recipe soon, though. I can never say no to pasta or prosciutto.

    • Katie, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and worrying if I was okay even though you only know me through my blog. It shows what a genuinly sweet caring person you are xoxo

      —-

      That being said, the recipe does tie in, but the alfredo I made then and still make to this day (which I’ll post here eventually)) is far too good to ‘not make’ because it was created during that time, WHICH, I might add, doesn’t turn out as you might think it will ;D

  12. You’re back! I’ve missed you Lisa! Glad you’re writing again and I’m gonna mail you soon!!! Xxx

  13. Welcome back! I’m glad to see that you are on the road to recovery (finally). It looks like you had a lot of time to work on this installment! I hope that you continue to feel better everyday…

  14. Sorry you’re not well! Hope you’ll get back to regular posting soon.

    • Thank you, Kelster! I hope so too :)

  15. Let’s just say it was worth waiting for, and the pasta too…looks delicious. This installment is over the top, you really poured it out. I hope this is good medicine for you and you are back on the mend. I would see all your pins and hit your blog to see if your were back. So happy to see you in my feed today! Welcome!

  16. I’m so sorry you’re sick. I hope you’ll be feeling better soon. I am still enjoying your story and it’s reminding me of some of my naive moments in past relationships. P.S. The pasta looks amazing. I am challenging myself to only take photos in daylight and find that I can’t blog as often because of that. It’s tough when I can only cook and photograph stuff on weekends.

  17. I’m so giddy that you”re back! :) My boyfriend called this afternoon and said that I was going to have a lot of reading to do tonight, I was like, what? Then he told me your alert was emailed! I held back on parts 18 through 21 for months so I would be able to read a ton at once, but then I saw how much you wrote, so I’m just taking a break in the middle of part 20 to write to you AND finally eat dinner at 11:32 pm! You are the best! Loving this story soooo much!!

    • Wow, Adriana, thank you! I do the same if I’m reading a story blog that doesn’t update much! Stockpile to satiate, is what I call it! xo Hope you enjoyed your late dinner!

  18. Well your writing skills are on full display as well as your heart, mind and soul. The story is oozing with every possible emotion. Like many here you should be writing books. Not sure I like where the story is headed but the depth of honesty and realism is just beautiful. Well done!

    • Whoa, thank you, Dave. I’m extremely flattered. I think sad times induce this type of writing and it’s almost unavoidable. It wouldn’t stop pouring and editing most of it out wasn’t even a thought. It is what it is.

  19. I am so so glad you posted…. It took a tremendous amount of courage, baby. I think it is good for you both physically and mentally. Therapy. Catharsis. And look at how many of us have been waiting to find out what happened??? Keep writing. Some of your phrases are amazing and I wish I would have, could have thought of them. Your story is gripping and extremely well written and don’t you forget that. Keep writing.

    And simple? I adore this pasta dish (I even love – prefer frozen peas) and I’ll try this for my men who I know will love it. I think it is perfect comfort food.

  20. So good to hear from you. I am glad you are feeling a bit better. Baby steps, right…Great story. I love your tower of tomato parmesan linguine. My boys would lap that up in just moments. Take Care, BAM

  21. Hi Lisa. Can I use light cream instead of heavy cream for this recipe?

    • Hi, Janet! I don’t see why not, although I’ve never tried it, so I’m just guessing. The only caveat I can think of is that the sauce may not thicken as quickly as it does with heavy cream. Please let me know how it turns out, if you can. :)

  22. I made this for dinner tonight and it was spectacular. Instead of the prosciutto, I added precooked, crumbled hot sausage. This sauce is a keeper. Thank you, Lisa!

    • You’re welcome, Derek, and I’m glad you liked it!

  23. Lisa, I just finished reading and all I can say is , wow. I’m exhausted and near tears! You wrote this with such ferocity, but at the same time, sadness. I don’t want it to end!! I’m so happy to see you back and well, chica!
    Oh, the pasta looks delightful, but my stomach is knots like yours was! lmao

    • Aww, thanks, Dinavia. It was certainly hard to write and publish. It took a lot out of me too. So good to see you again!

  24. Can I just tell you how INCREDIBLY nice it is to “see” you?!?! Man, I miss your recipes, writing and of course, the story. I truly hope you’re on the mend and starting to feel better. I hope that things are on an upswing. This recipe sounds fantastic. Simple, flavorful and I bookmarked it to try soon.

    As for the story, I cannot even imagine how difficult this story is to write. As I learn more, read more, it’s all just so intense! Love that you’re sharing it with us though and you know I’ll be really looking forward to the next part. Please, stay well and don’t stay away so long next time. I missed you!!

  25. I am so happy to see you! Even though I subscribe, I would still check every day…email, facebook, then parsley, sage, and sweet! I stopped last week because I was on vacay in Antigua, and of course that’s when you post!! I am so in love with this story but this part made me sad. I went through something similar at the end of my last relationship and it was like it was happening all over again. Im hoping it turns out better than mine! Im so looking forward to the next part, but I wish it wasn’t the end :( So glad you are better!! LOve the beautiful pasta tower! Looks yummy!

    • Thank you, Jenna! Hope you had an amazing time in Antigua. My parents honeymooned there :)

  26. My husband just called this pasta FANTASTICAL. I agree. Your recipes are always spot on delicious! (except those daring cooker ones I’m too afraid to try!)

    • FANTASTICAL is my kind of word, I’m thrilled that you and your husband liked it and thank you for the kind words. As for the Daring Cooks posts, yes, a little ambitious, but it made me try stuff I normally wouldn’t have given a thought to. I hope to get back into it soon :)

  27. Glad to see you posting again! I’m sorry to hear you weren’t feeling well and hope you have completely recovered. As others have already commented, you are a wonderful writer–I was happy to see another installment.

  28. I am sooooo delighted you are back! Your culinary creations are beautiful, and this story has just hooked me in. Glad you are feeling up to posting again and wishing you a full recovery!

    • Thank you so much, Heather! You’re too kind xo I’m so glad you’re enjoying the story and thank you for your sweet sentiment xoxo.

  29. We came for the pasta and now all of the women and one very sensitive guy on my office floor are in the middle of reading your story. We’re so hooked! You must write more stories! Please don’t give it up!

    • Wow, that’s amazing to hear, Deborah, thank you! As for writing more, I’m not a writer, just a memory rambler, but I’ll try and ramble up some more if things get better. xo

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  31. You really have a gift for storytelling. I couldn’t stop reading once I started, and now I’m dying for more! I’m living in China temporarily, but I’m from Philly, so I have Jersey Shore memories too, particularly Wildwood Crest! This story really brings me back home. Pleeeaaase make that darn recipe work so you can post it!! :>D

    • Thank you, Sharon! I know it’s probably tough being so far from home, but China..wow. Would love to visit one day! That said, we went to Wildwood Crest when I was around 9 or 10. I remember we stayed at some Hawaiian motel right off the beach, and across from the Singapore motel. Lots of cool accommodations there!

  32. Missed you so much. And hope you will just get better and better to 100% health wise. The dish looks just scrumptious. And the story, all I can say right now is : men!

  33. I found a flank steak recipe and a story last night on pinterest! Unfortunately my children ended up with hamburger helper :( and I read the best story I have read in along time:) with a bonus of recipes for later! Im signed up and will check back often! Please finish your story soon! And thank you for writing a great story from the heart!

    • Valerie, I grew up on Hamburger Helper and loved it! I’m betting your kids love it too! That said, I’m so flattered that you’ve enjoyed my story up to this point. No thanking me, thank YOU for making my day. I should have the end up this week, so you have extra time to prepare the steak, which is really out of the world :) xoxo

  34. I’d like to echo all of the above, please. What an amazing and captivating story! You brought back all of those feelings of first love and then some. I just wanted to say I’ve loved your blog for some time because it’s real…no hidden agendas, just amazing recipes and writing. Thank you for bravely sharing this story and thank you for the many delicious meals that have become a part of my recipe rotation forever!

    • Aww, you also made my day, Trisha. Thank you so much for your kind words, It makes me so happy when what I write and/or make touches one’s heart and belly. xoxo

  35. I happened upon your blog today through a pinterest link for a salad dressing (I think–it was so long ago) and ended up reading the entire BBFL story for hours! I’m so glad I happened upon it when it is nearly complete so I didn’t have to wait between installments. I tend to be a binge reader, anyway. Anxious for Part 23!

    • I’m a binge reader too and just so happen to be going through the same thing on another blog, so I know just how you feel and hate that I always do this. Things just keep happening when least expected. In any event, trying for tomorrow :)

  36. I also found you by way of pinterest and boy am I glad I did. I just made your “bad boy” sticky buns and they are out of this world! But, this story. Wow. I just finished part 22 after reading all night. I love how you seamlessly transition from the innocent, puppy love thoughts of a 15 year old to the complicated, deeper thoughts and decisions you face as adult. Beautifully done! Need part 23 soon!

    • Michelle, I had to travel back to my ’15 year old self’ to remember every detail/feeling. I’m so flattered by your comment..thank you :)

  37. Okay . . . I am definitely not prepared to wait six months for the final installment. Please post it. I’m quite confident it is detailed enough.

    • Can you wait 24 hours? ;) It will be up tomorrow.

  38. Where’s the next installment?? I just found your blog and have read all of the previous posts in one day. I need to know what happened! : )

    • duh…Im so lame. I just realized the first post that I found was actually part 23. SOO happy. I was going to go crazy not knowing what happened. Thank you for making my work day much more tolerable. :)

      • You’re so welcome, leah! I think I need to categorize it better! Will figure something out, like maybe a section just for the story, or something :)

  39. I love you

  40. Hello, I’m new to your blog, but just spent the last 6 hours binge reading your incredible story…..you are such a good writer! I have to know how this ends..,,


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