Necessity is the Mother of Independence

They say necessity is the mother of invention but I say it’s the mother of independence.

I’m convinced that if I had continued to work full time when my kids were little that now, at 17 and 21, my boys would, out of necessity, know to fill the soap dispenser with soap and not just add water. They would know how to heat up a can of soup, how to feed themselves something other than goldfish and cereal bars while they waited for someone else to prepare “real” food, and they would know how to shop for groceries.

Last week, in an effort to prepare my boys to enter the world without me I sent my oldest son to the store to buy groceries for dinner and he came back with among other requested things, a four pound, $9.00 organic onion.

A four pound onion!

In his defense, I didn’t specify the size of the onion I wanted; I just sort of assumed that after all these years of watching me shop and prep meals he may have noticed that mutant produce was not the norm.

But you know what they say about people who assume…

Yes, it is a little late for my 21-year-old to just be learning how to shop for groceries, but up to this point he has either lived in a dorm or a fraternity house where food is prepared for him or he has lived at home where I don’t like to send anyone out to buy groceries because, well, a four-pound, $9.00, organic onion. But now, my son is moving into an apartment and he will have to prepare some meals (or find someone to cook for him or get three jobs to pay for take out).

I could take him shopping and attempt to pass on my wisdom but I tried that with teaching him how to do laundry. No matter how many times I went over the steps to do laundry before he left for college he conveniently forgot how the whole system worked. Then, miraculously, when he was away at school and out of clothes he managed to figure it out with only minor damage to a couple of white socks.

See, necessity.

By the same logic, if I take him grocery shopping he will expect me to guide him – and by guide him I mean tell him exactly what to do but nothing will stick. If, for instance, I tell him to check for blemishes on the apples that we are buying he will look straight at me as if he’s listening and then pick up the first apple he sees and drop it in the bag. Only when he is shopping for himself and he has spent his own money will he really care that the banged up apple he just bought is riddled with brown spots and virtually inedible.

I don’t blame him. I didn’t start cooking until I lived on my own. Cooking was never a required chore at home – we owned a restaurant so someone was always cooking for us. Once I moved out I lived on salad bar salads from the local grocery store until I realized how expensive that was. Out of necessity I started “cooking” where I mastered the almost daily meal of scrambled eggs, a microwaved baked potato, and green beans straight out of a can. I’m shocked I didn’t develop scurvy from my limited diet but, hey, it was sustenance.

Eventually, mostly out of boredom, I expanded my meals to include things like baked chicken and pasta with jarred tomato sauce (doctored, of course, with a splash of wine and some dried oregano because I’m fancy). Once I had kids, cooking became even more important because kids need food multiple times a day.

Now, I know plenty of people who never cook; they buy their meals prepared from the grocery store, they order in, they eat cereal. But I really believe that cooking is a necessity for kids who, like my son, do not have unlimited funds. He also eats about six meals a day, so you can see the problem.

So, this summer, as I wait for the shove of necessity to kick in, I will keep sending my sons to the store (probably with much more specific instructions – maybe even pictures!) and I will continue to prattle on about food prep with the hope that something sticks (Wash your hands! Never leave anything on the stove if you leave the room! Always salt tomatoes!)

I will also challenge both of my boys to master the following really, really, simple recipe. If all else fails I will challenge them to find the areas in the grocery store with canned green beans and potatoes. Scurvy be damned.

Pasta with Bacon and tomatoes (or Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana if you want to impress someone)



3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces good bacon sliced into little pieces or cut up with a clean kitchen scissors (not the scissors you would use to cut open a package – the one I gave you for the kitchen)
1 small red onion (small!), outside skin removed first, then cut into thin-ish slices and then cut again, in half, to make ½ moon shapes

3 cloves (not heads, just cloves) garlic, (remove papery skin first), then slice
3 to 4 shakes (or 1 1/2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes)
2 cups jarred tomato sauce (preferably Rao’s Marinara or whatever is on sale)
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Fill a big pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. While the water is boiling , combine the olive oil, chopped bacon, sliced onion, sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes in 12-inch saute pan (not the pan for eggs; the bigger one).IMG_0227
  3. Place the pan over low heat and cook until the onion is soft and the bacon has cooked off most of its fat but it’s not too crispy. This should take about 10 minutes, be patient.
  4. Drain all but 3 or 4 Tablespoons of the fat out of the pan (use a large spoon to spoon it out but don’t pour the fat down the sink! Put it in a bowl and wait until it cools then dispose of it in the garbage).
  5. Add the tomato sauce to the sauté pan, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for about five to seven minutes (again, be patient you are letting the flavors blend).
  6. While the sauce simmers, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until the pasta is a little firm and not mushy. Don’t believe the time on the box cook it for about a minute or two less.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta to coat.
  8. Divide the pasta and serve immediately, with some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.




4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dale on May 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Oh Connie! You have me in tears! So very funny and let’s face it, we are in similar boats…
    Well, not to show off, but, I ABANDONED my boys for almost three weeks while I went gallivanting around Tuscany… I actually bought them groceries and refused to pre-prepare anything though there were three types of left-overs. Which I threw out when I got home. They went to the store and bought effing Ramen. They are both experts on anything egg, though – broke yolk sandwiches and the eldest even POACHES!. They will, occasionally, actually cook pasta and gussie up a plain tomato sauce (mostly the 19-yr-old).
    They wash their own work clothes – because if their greasy, filthy work clothes end up in my pile I will shoot them dead. So they know how to work the “fast wash” for 3-4 items. On occasion, will actually do a full load (I’ve yet to verify if they actually put it on a real cycle)
    Now… grocery shopping. Right. They did some which involved more than chips and other junk but I cannot wait for the day when they buy their own fruit and feel broke enough to actually eat the apple they bruised…
    I left them a recipe with the same type of explanations, by the way, to make chicken parmesan… and then got a Messenger request for the recipe. Because eldest cleared off the table with ALL my instructions on when to put the garbage and recycling to he curb, remind them to feed the dog, the recipe, other stuff. I found my instructions under a pile in the guest bedroom.
    So. Yeah. Let ’em find out the real life way… 😀
    Sorry. My comment is almost as long as your post!!

    Liked by 2 people


    • You did it right. I can’t even imagine leaving them alone for three weeks. They would start selling things to pay for take out. I’ve made so many excuses for why I do everything for my boys and now it will be sink or swim – or messenger to get the answer.

      Liked by 1 person


      • Posted by Dale on May 26, 2017 at 3:22 pm

        And I still feel like I’ve not done enough (or rather did too much) because at times they are so dumb!


  2. Posted by Kim on May 26, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Think I might try that recipe 😉



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