I am in the middle of stewing a pot of spaghetti sauce. My recipe is top secret, and although it is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, the effort is always worth it. Lately, whenever I make my sauce, it reminds me of two important events that occurred in my life in recent years: the time I took second place in a Super Bowl cook-off at my then-favorite pool hall/bar; and the first time I met my favorite cat of all time.
It was 2003 or 2004; I was still drinking heavily regularly at the time, so it's a bit hazy. Replays, the sports bar connected with Wagin' Cajun truck-stop casino, held its first ever Super Bowl
cook-off. The rules were simple: make a dish, bring it in. I opted to make a big pan of lasagna. The recipe on the box of noodles called for some brand-name marinara--I balked at the notion, figuring I might as well just heat up a pan of Stouffer's--I decided to use my spaghetti sauce instead; it was a very good idea.
I ended up with two pans; I brought one to the bar and the other to work the next day. I also made some garlic cheese bread that totally rocked--again a secret recipe with lots of time and effort in it--to serve alongside the lasagna. Everyone who tried it loved it; several people hurt themselves on it. I was up against maybe eight other dishes; I thought I had a good chance of winning until I tasted a dish whose creator called it simply, "Sauce..."
He was an older black man I'd never seen at Replays; I assumed he played a different shift than my ten p.m. to whenever. He had a huge cauldron of his concoction--complete with a propane burner to keep it simmering--and a large electric rice cooker full of his secret recipe rice. He said there were gizzards and necks and myriad other eclectic, exotic "cuts" of meat products up in that there sauce; it was delicious!
I have always been honest to a fault; when it came time to cast my vote for best dish, I had to vote for that man's sauce. When they tallied the three or four dozen votes, he had won first prize. My lasagna came in a respectable second; I got a red ribbon and fifty dollars cash, which covered all of my expenses and bought me six beers to boot!
Two or three years later, my parents asked if I would make spaghetti at their house for one of our regular get-togethers. My baby sister and her husband and two girls were there, as was then soon-to-be Mrs. Peter. We were sitting down to eat when a female calico tabby came limping through the open carport door into the dining room. One of my nieces remarked, "It's a cat! And its leg is hurt!" My other niece added, "It doesn't have a leg! It's missing!" Sure enough, the cat's right front leg was gone!
The first thing she did was jump up on the table and start eating! I was touched deeply by her appreciation for my cooking; I decided right then to adopt her. The problem arose of what we should name her.
Several months earlier, I had been at Replays and had asked the manager how he was doing. His response was unusual and funny in an almost cryptic way; he replied, "Man, I'm busier than a three-legged cat in a litter box!" Upon seeing this particular cat for the first time, I began to understand where he had been coming from. This point was driven the rest of the way home that evening, when I actually saw her in a litter box; she seemed completely unable to fathom why all of her efforts to bury her business with her phantom right leg were going for naught! I named her Busy Kitty that night.
Two summers ago, Mrs. Peter heard some commotion at the back (sliding glass) door. She went to see what the problem was; Busy Kitty was standing at the door with a bird in her mouth. Mrs. Peter opened the door, stepped out onto the deck, and sternly commanded Busy Kitty to release the bird. She released her grip on the bird right away; it flew off without even touching the deck!
We were astonished to say the least! She had managed to sneak up on the bird, pounce on it, catch it and bring it home unharmed! She is truly amazing and is by far my favorite cat ever.
My spaghetti sauce turned out excellent as usual; at the behest of Mrs. Peter, I added roasted sweet Italian sausage links to it. Just when I thought life could not get any better! Busy Kitty's been scratching at the back door for a while now; I guess I should let her in to lick my plate...