Have you ever met someone who, when you looked at them, you just knew that they were very intelligent? Well, I recently met the most remarkable 11 year old boy ever. He literally left me speechless and it was all I could do to not feel like an idiot in front of him.
I met this wunderkind at the hospital when he came to visit his grandmother, who had had surgery. When I walked into the patient’s room on the third day of being her nurse, the room was filled with family members. The patient introduced me to her family and when she introduced her grandson, she told me that he liked to cook.
Making small-talk with the boy, I asked him what was his favorite thing to cook. Of course I expected to hear something like ‘macaroni and cheese with ketchup’, but no, oh no-no-no, not this kid. “Well, ” he said as he looked up at me from his grandmother’s wheelchair as if he was about to do a class presentation, “I like to make linguine bolognese.”
What? Those words didn’t sound anything like ‘mac and cheese with ketchup’. As my brain worked quickly to recover, I realized that bolognese is generally made with red wine and I found myself honestly afraid at the thought of an 11 year old working with alcohol. The mother/nurse in me was getting ready to haul every adult in that child’s family to the woodshed if he said anything about using red wine.
Calculating, but with a cheerful voice I said, “That’s so interesting. I’ve just read a number of recipes for bolognese. How do you make yours?”
“Well,” he said. “I start with…”….wait for it, here it comes….”red wine vinegar….”
“The kid’s a genus!!!!!” I thought. And then I wanted to hug him to pieces for thinking of a way to get around using wine.
His mom and grandma went on to tell me about more of this boy’s cooking adventures. They talked about how he had made his grandmother a birthday cake and about one of his more interesting creations, pizza lasagna. That one got my curiosity going, but I didn’t ask about the ingredients because I pretty much knew at that moment that I would soon be doing a blog post on pizza lasagna and didn’t want anyone’s recipe to influence me.
We talked off and on for the rest of my shift whenever I would come in to care for his grandmother. I asked him if he ever used the internet to look up recipes or to learn about food. “Oh yes,” he replied nonchalantly. “I read different recipes, then open up Word, and write my own recipe.”
“I write mine by hand on scraps of paper or in a notebook, if I can find where I left it last,” I thought.
“So, do you want a career as a chef?” I asked innocently on one of my visits to his grandmother’s room. “No,” he stated matter of fact. “Cooking is my hobby. I want to be a defense lawyer.”
I could feel that proverbial feather knocking me over once again. “Well, honey, if that’s what you want to do, then it is the right thing for you. Go where your heart tells you to go. Always do your best and work hard.” A faint smile crossed the boy’s face and he nodded as he spun his grandmother’s wheelchair around so that he could watch TV.
I’ve thought about pizza lasagna for the past 2 or 3 months trying to figure out how to make a good one. My first attempt went in the garbage. It may sound wasteful to have thrown it away, but it was really bad and I knew that there was no way I was going to eat it and no one else seemed interested in eating any of it, either. I went back to the drawing board and rethought everything. I am obviously satisfied with the final product or else it wouldn’t be sitting here on this blog.
This is a very easy dish to put together. The list of ingredients is long, but you can pick and choose whether to go fully homemade or take some shortcuts such as using a purchased pizza sauce instead of making your own and buying grated cheeses. The ‘toppings’ are flexible and can be tailored to your personal tastes. PLUS the lasagna noodles don’t have to be cooked! Do I have your attention now?