My mom’s side of the family is Italian and its greatest influence on me starts and stops at the dinner table. My grandma is a great cook and so is my mom. Some of their best dishes are Italian classics; pasta and meatballs is at the top of the list.
As a kid I would always do my homework in the kitchen and most nights mom was cooking. On the occasions that she made meatballs I would pay extra attention to try and uncover what made them so good. And I knew she wasn’t a fan of touching the meat so if I were willing to get my hands dirty I’d be employed to mix them up. It was like a science experiment, meat squishing between your fingers as she added the ingredients one at a time. Breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic, a little of this, a little of that and then she always cracked an egg or two in there as well. The egg was always cold and made the mixture extra sloppy as the yolk ran through my hands.
Kids today have dietary restrictions worse than a yoga instructor in Santa Monica. But when I was a kid and the meatballs were finally mixed up, mom would ask, “how are they?” This was my chance to snag a little piece of raw meat and let her know if they needed anything extra. Probably sounds like a stomachache to most but to me it was the filet mignon of meals. That little bit of raw meatball was a little slice of heaven!
Tonight I made meatballs for the first time. I’m not sure what inspired it but I had some ground Turkey in the fridge and decided to go for it. My Grandpa was probably looking down and asking if I had turned into a yoga instructor myself, considering they weren’t made with red meat. Anyway, I got a bowl and got to work, turkey, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, a little of this, a little of that and a cold egg cracked right on top. Mixing them up brought me back to being a kid in the kitchen only this time I skipped eating the raw meat. Maybe I’m getting older or wiser but something about raw turkey didn’t seem as appealing. It turns out, even without the taste tester, I make a damn good meatball.