Far from home

4 Oct

It’s been a while, I know. How’s everybody been holding up?

You’d think that nearly two years of sticking close to home might lead to a lot of kitchen time and a constant flow of recipes and stories to share with you here.

I was thinking the same thing at the beginning of the pandemic. So we were both wrong.

It was four or five months into the thing when the first queries started to appear.

“Where the hell are you? I need some new stuff to cook–and you haven’t given us anything in a while. What gives?”

“I’m stuck here under quarantine and could really use a couple of new pasta ideas. Please, can you give us one before the weekend?”

That kind of thing.

As the many months wore on the tone of the messages changed dramatically.

“Haven’t seen a new post for quite a while. I hope everything is all right with you and that the virus hasn’t visited upon you or your family.”

“It’s been so long since we’ve heard from you. I miss you. Are you okay?”

And then, the inevitable.

“Have you shut down Mister Meatball? Are you there?”

Shutting the place down has in fact crossed my mind many times; it does still today. The reason that I haven’t yet is because I want to believe that things can go back to the way they used to be. That I can go back to the man I used to be.

You see, cooking used to be a joyful thing. Most of my earliest memories involve food: waking up to the smell of my mother’s meatballs frying on Sunday morning; hanging from the strong arm of my uncle Joe while he dipped crusty bread into a pot of tender trippa to give his two-year-old godson a taste; watching my father frying his eggs and rice and meat scraps of all kinds in a hot black iron skillet.

Food is home to me. If not for these and countless other memories, well, there would never have been a Mister Meatball blog in the first place.

But the pandemic has changed my relationship with food, and not in a good way. At the beginning, and for months and months and months on end, simply going out to shop for food felt fraught with danger and unpleasantness. In an instant food went from being about pleasure and joy and sharing and loving people to being about simple sustenance and ice cold practicality.

I’ve never been much prone to depression but I’ll admit that this whole wretched mess really has thrown me horribly off center. Which is the reason this blog has remained mostly silent and unattended for some time.

All I can do is hope to find a way back home.

31 Responses to “Far from home”

  1. Sordoni III, Andrew October 4, 2021 at 7:38 pm #

    Mr. MB,
    Buck up. You brought joy to all who read your posts and with great flair. So to return the favors I will send you recipes and more if you resume posting. Here are a few teasers: veal shoulder poached on milk and cognac; guanciale-stuffed artichoke; (to die for) zuppa inglaise.
    Take the offer, please,

  2. Martha Crunkleton October 4, 2021 at 7:38 pm #

    Sir, your comments are spot on. Your response to this pandemic makes perfect sense to me.

  3. Endel Koppel October 4, 2021 at 8:01 pm #

    Thanks for this email. You are not alone in how Covid has impacted our daily lives. I have missed my friends and family members. I am happy to not have gotten the virus. I have holed up in a small house for months. The mental/spiritual impact slowly creeps up on you, like growing older does. Don’t let it get you down, and trust the love of creating fabulous, authentic Italian dishes. Teach us. You are a unique resource that has been missed.

  4. Josephine Carrion October 4, 2021 at 8:11 pm #

    I remember your beautiful posts. I want to tell you many people went through a depression during the Covid. I have a relatives in Europe that had the same problem. I know people that lost family members and I lost neighbors of mine too. I lost a few good friends also. God will always be our guide no matter what we go thru. Please don’t think about the past. People need each other in times like this we will all survive this. I hope you will get help and try to make yourself be with people whether it’s through a church or volunteering if it is possible. I wish you the best!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. twinklechar October 4, 2021 at 8:13 pm #

    Been lost right along with you. Thanks for speaking up. Charlene

    • Joe Raffio October 4, 2021 at 8:17 pm #

      Snap Out of It !!!

      • joesentme October 4, 2021 at 9:19 pm #

        Pretty snippy reply for a guy who started the Mets slide on August 1 …

  6. Sandy V October 4, 2021 at 8:25 pm #

    I will second Carlene’s sentiment, I’m lost right along with you as well. I’ve lost my desire to cook and eat… Nothing appeals anymore. But still hopeful for some kind of light at the end of this horrible tunnel. Please hang in there! We need you!! Well all hold each other up. With love… 💜

  7. Cliff Niersbach October 4, 2021 at 8:27 pm #

    In a way I can identify with what you’re going through. My last job lasted 41+ years. I dealt in-person, by phone, by letter and then by email, teleconference and videoconference with literally thousands of members each year. People depended on me and my colleagues for information, guidance and support. I knew so many people, both in and outside the industry that I even started semi-regular pieces on FB – “Tales from the Rails” recounting experiences from my daily commute to and from work. People enjoyed it, and I enjoyed writing it.

    Retirement came a little sooner than I expected and I felt adrift for over a year. They say don’t let work define who you are. I tried not to, and I promised myself if work wasn’t enjoyable and fulfilling, I would quit. But thankfully that day never came. Then going from being useful and needed to being “retired” and cut off from colleagues and members left me feeling depressed and somewhat purposeless. It took a good year – and involvement in some volunteer activities – to get past all that. And my promised transformation from “Tales from the Rails” to “Tales from the Trails” never materialized. But eventually things were better. Different, but better.

    The isolation brought on by Covid was somewhat similar, though the lessons I eventually learned from leaving the working world made things a little easier.

    The fact that people missed you and your writing, and eventually became worried about you, speaks volumes about how valued you are by others. That’s something that can be hard to grasp, but believe me, it’s true.

    I’m hardly one to give advice but I’ve finally come to appreciate how important it is to be flexible and to appreciate simple things.

    If something is a seemingly unsolvable problem or setback, there’s no reason to be upset, just set it aside and come back to it later (though that doesn’t apply to broken water pipes or dogs that need walking). Little victories, one day at a time sounds trite, but there’s something to it.

    I hope things get better and we hear from you more often. Stay safe. Be well.


    • Kathy October 4, 2021 at 9:19 pm #

      Humbling and very heartfelt!

  8. Kathy October 4, 2021 at 8:53 pm #

    Mr Meatball,
    This pandemic (along with a few other things) have left most people feeling down in the dumps. Life is definitely not the same . You have a gift! Your writing demonstrates your love and appreciation for your family and your family history. It’s made me reflect, many times, on my own. It has also shown me, one of your readers, the connections made “around the table” with friends. I’m hoping you you find your self “closer to home”! I’m suggesting scattering bread crumbs along the way! Possibly garlic bread crumbs?! And … I’m hoping you realize how much your blog posts gift others with a very humble appreciation for family history and times gathered around the table. Sincerely

  9. Bill Moreland October 4, 2021 at 9:46 pm #

    Love you meatball! Make like our dear departed friend X.Ray Burns; do your best to “Give Zero Fucks!”   Gravy, not Sauce?Bill Moreland

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  10. Cheryl October 4, 2021 at 10:09 pm #

    Mr. Meatball hang in there. 😢. Please find your way “back home”. We miss you.

  11. Dan Janiga October 4, 2021 at 10:23 pm #

    I too have felt something similar. I have always said that good beer, food and people are the reasons we are wandering around this world. The joy of making beer and food had somewhat left me as well. I wish I had some magical advice to give you, but I don’t think there is. All I can say is don’t try hard to enjoy it again. Just enjoy what you currently enjoy. The passion may return, maybe it won’t just don’t concentrate on it too much. Don’t give up on dabbling in it for yourself every once in awhile though. As long as you do it for you.

  12. Geri Finn October 4, 2021 at 10:30 pm #

    You have been missed, but we are so glad to know you are still out there. Cannot wait until you start posting some of those recipes I also remember from my childhood. They send us back to a time when the common cold was was are dreaded health issue. Hurry back to us.

  13. Denise October 4, 2021 at 10:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing how you are feeling, it always helps me to know that I’m not alone. Like so many have said, we’ve missed you. I’m happy to hear that you haven’t decided to shut down the blog. Sending you virtual hugs.

  14. Patty Porter October 4, 2021 at 11:06 pm #

    We miss you and your posts and recipes. Please don’t give us up!

  15. LeAnne October 4, 2021 at 11:07 pm #

    Oh Mr. Meatball–my heart aches for you. I was doing pretty well in 2020–I was managing to keep engaged, and kept cooking. Your recipes were part of what sustained me. This year though has been full of losses of people close to me–a few from Covid, but mostly due to just the normal transitions in life. So much death. Being a glass half full kind of girl, I’m not used to feeling like this. It hit like a ton of bricks. I’m trying to find ways through. I hope that you can find your way through too and we can both find home again. Thanks for sharing where you are.

  16. Marie DeGennaro October 4, 2021 at 11:42 pm #


    Hoping you will be doing well soon. Hugs from Cuz Maria D.

  17. Barbara B. October 4, 2021 at 11:57 pm #

    Thank you for the update. We were getting worried! Take your time getting back to you. Covid has been hard on everyone in different ways. For me, I found that the mindfulness of making & baking bread kept me okay. And then sharing little loaves with friends who were also having a hard time. I also focused on trying new recipes from around the world. Just gave me things to research and find places to order the spices i didn’t have. I hope you find something that works for you!

  18. Nancy October 5, 2021 at 12:10 am #

    I have seen posts about garlic! I’ll take it; it let me know you are still there. Hang in there Mr. Meatball, my husband has been complaining I haven’t been cooking like before either. The most adventurous thing I’ve done is make sugar free buttercream frosting! Hugs.

  19. janet October 5, 2021 at 1:06 am #

    Hugs and prayers for you…….feel better soon!

  20. Peter October 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm #

    Hopefully your current vacation to Italy will Spark that Huge head of yours into life. You gotta get inspired eating all that delicious food over there If nothing else, remember you have a complete friendly home to return to,, some don’t

  21. Frank October 5, 2021 at 5:00 pm #

    “I got through all of last year, And i`m here.
    Lord knows, At least i was there, And i`m here”

  22. Paige October 5, 2021 at 5:49 pm #

    I understand and agree. And while all of this other stuff was happening, age crept in.

  23. Denise October 6, 2021 at 12:20 pm #

    So funny you should say this, I too have felt this way! I thought it was just me. I have not done my tomatoes this year….nor made my giardenera, caponata or anything else other than meals…and they are just not exciting any morel. I am going to go to the store and see if they have something that will inspire a soup or stew. Yes…that’s it….soup…something different….maybe that will pull me up out of this hole a little bit. Just know we care. Just know you are never the only one. And know we miss your recipes and wonderful family stories. Prayers and best wishes to you and yours

  24. Janet Quadri Rancan October 6, 2021 at 8:20 pm #

    I just read through the comments, before posting my reply. We are all in the same boat, so hang in there. I was working full time before the pandemic started. I never had a dinner plan, I’d contemplate what we were going to have, during my commute home. We ate well.
    Once Covid shut everything down, grocery shopping became life threatening. I retired earlier this year. Now, with oodles of time to do all the things that I planned to do once I had the time, I’m depressed & uninspired. We’re tired of being cooped up & entertaining is still risky. We have become hermits, living virtual lives. Meals are thrown together, and monotonous.
    I’m with you 100%, we all want our old lives back. We just have to have faith that eventually, it will happen.
    Stay well & know you aren’t alone in this craziness.

  25. DAVE BLAKNEY October 8, 2021 at 5:02 pm #

    i offer the best fix for the blues i know- let’s ride motorcycles and eat good road food. i’m in north suburban boston. reach out.

  26. Jeff October 9, 2021 at 1:15 am #

    I read you loud and clear, good buddy. Call me for a few laughs. Im still cooking in my wood shop.

  27. Ruth H. October 9, 2021 at 9:23 pm #

    I made your Pumpkin Pancetta Pasta last night (before I saw your post) – I wanted comfort food and that recipe never disappoints.

  28. Dr. Dick October 14, 2021 at 9:46 pm #

    I once had a pal who was seeing a Freudian shrink in NYC back in the early 1980s who asked him during a therapy session, “how would you feel if I said I wanted to put my penis up your ass?”

    When I am plagued by The Black Dog I remember that moment and suddenly, to my astonishment, I feel the unbearable lightness of Being for a few minutes. I also find myself unconsciously shifting my buttocks as I sit.

    I hope sharing my story brings you a few moments of palliative care, and a longing for a simpler time when we were all young gods who walked the earth, sore assholes and all.

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