Jennifer Jackson heard the rumble of her brother Brady’s Pontiac Firebird coming up the driveway. She looked up from her task at the kitchen counter to watch the shiny black car pull up in front of the house, and Brady hop out of the driver’s door while his girlfriend Amanda climbed out of the passenger door. Jennifer leaned over to look across the yard towards Randy and Jackie’s trailer. Randy and Jackie, and little Allison, would show up quickly no doubt, now that Brady and Amanda had arrived. Jennifer turned and took a quick look at the table, which was fully set for dinner, to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, then reached over to take the huge pot of pasta off the element and turn off the stove.
“Brady’s here Mom,” she called out, just as the door opened and Brady and Amanda stepped inside. “Perfect timing!” she added. “Dinner’s ready!”
And sure enough, Brady and Amanda had hardly finished hanging up their coats when the door popped open again and Randy and Jennifer hurried in out of the cold, Randy carrying one-year-old Allison.
“Need any help Jenn?” asked Amanda as the others greeted each other in the entryway.
“I need Brady to drain the pasta,” said Jennifer. “It’s too heavy for me.”
Amanda turned back towards the door. “Brady,” she said, “Jenn needs you to drain the pasta.”
Brady waltzed into the kitchen and gave his sister a quick hug. “Pasta?” he said, wrinkling his nose. “Since when do we have pasta for Sunday dinner?”
“Since Mom broke her arm and I do the cooking,” said Jennifer. “And I recommend you don’t complain or I won’t give you a plate.”
“That might be safer for me,” Brady teased as the steam from the pot wreathed his head for a second. “Wow, that’s hot,” he added.
“Duh,” said Jennifer. “It was boiling a second ago.”
“Hi everybody,” said a voice from across the room, and they all turned to see Rose standing in the doorway, her arm in a heavy plaster cast. Andrew stood behind her.
“How are you Mom? How’s the arm?” Randy picked up Allison and set her in the high chair at the corner of the table.
“Oh, you know,” said Rose. “I’m good for about an hour and then I have to lie down for two or three. But it’s getting better. A week ago I practically couldn’t move.”
“Dinner’s ready everybody,” said Jennifer, setting a basket on the table, from which emanated the aroma of freshly warmed garlic bread. “Sit.”
No one in the Jackson family needs to be told twice, at least not when it’s dinner-time, and a few moments later everyone was seated and busily helping themselves to the pasta, the fresh garden salad and of course the bread. There was a lull in the conversation as they sampled the various offerings. Eventually Brady put his fork down and reached for the juice pitcher.
“Who made the pasta sauce?” he asked. “I did,” said Jennifer. “I made
Brady picked up his fork. “Well,” he said,
“far be it from me to compliment my little sister, but that is one heck of a sauce.”
“I was about to say that,” said Randy. “That is really, really good. And it’s obviously not one of Mom’s recipes. At least if it is, I’ve never had it before.”
“I found the recipe on the Internet,” said Jennifer, grinning happily. “It looked good so I made it.”
“Well, it tastes way better than it looks,” said Andrew, “and it looks fine.”
“It’s got a flavour I can’t quite place,” said Jackie. “And I agree, it’s yummy!”
“There’s a secret ingredient,” said Jennifer, her cheeks reddening a little.
“I can tell,” said Jackie, “but I can’t quite place it.”
There was another silence as everyone concentrated on identifying the unique flavour in Jennifer’s wonderful sauce.
Randy shook his head. “No idea,” he said. “Me either,” said Brady. Everyone else
appeared equally stumped. “So what is it Jennifer?” asked Andrew.
“Obviously everybody likes it.” “You’ll be surprised,” said Jennifer. “We’re already surprised,” said Andrew,
“by how good it is.”
“Yeah,” said Brady. “Way to go Jenn.
You’ve hardly accomplished anything and already you’ve exceeded our expectations.”
“It’s vodka,” said Jenn. “There’s half a cup of vodka in the sauce.”
There was a surprised silence. Jackie took a mouthful of pasta and chewed thoughtfully. “Dang,” she said. “No wonder I like it.”
Jennifer laughed, obviously pleased. “Looks like you can retire Mom,” she said. “I got it all under control.”
Rose smiled and raised a forkful of pasta and sauce.
“Cheers,” was all she said. Listen to hear Rollin Penner and the
Travelling Medicine Show on a radio station near you.