When Making Lasagna on Sunday Afternoon Feels Miraculous

The never-ending snow floats past the bay window where our houseplants hang out, clean our indoor air, and provide respite from the white landscape of a Minnesota winter. The last time I checked, the snow pile outside the front door formed from our many winter driveway clearings is taller than I am. Some of the flakes hitting the driveway right now melt on contact. 

In our kitchen, I open two cans of whole peeled tomatoes, empty them into a strainer over a big bowl. I break them open with my hands, one by one, to take out the fibrous core bits. Juice drips into the bowl thick and red. A bit of juice erupts from a tomato between my thumbs, squirts onto my sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is old anyway, so it doesn’t much matter. When each tomato has been squished open, forced to bleed into the strainer and bowl, I turn my attention to dicing an onion, mincing garlic, heating olive oil in a large skillet. 

I’m making marinara sauce on this Sunday afternoon, which will be followed by roasting zucchini, steaming spinach, and assembling vegetable lasagna for our dinner. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here, working with my hands, engulfed in the aromas of vegetables cooking, spices offering their assorted notes. 

Daylight savings time kicked in overnight. This is the first year in a long time that I didn’t feel grumpy about the time change. Usually, it irks me that we move our clocks back and forth so people can be more comfortable with the available light at the end of the work day. Time is a construct, an organizational tool; it doesn’t change the actual amount of daylight. The sun and moon and stars will move how they’ve moved for millions of years no matter what we do. But, somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that moving the clock around to a new time is what we need to do to get the most out of the length of our days. In a society that offers flex time and remote working and never really seems to stop, this no longer makes the sense it once might have. But I’ve stopped caring. I’ll do what I’m going to do no matter what time it is.

There is a pot of flowering bulbs amidst the plants in our bay window in the living room. It was a gift from our neighbors across the street after we kept their driveway clear of snow and picked up their mail while they were away last month. There are pinkish-purple tulips, tiny yellow daffodils, purple hyacinths that scent the whole living room. The daffodils, first to bloom, lean into the sunlight; if I turn the pot around, they lean the other way. I find it fascinating when plants do this, that they know exactly which way to turn to get what they need.

The marinara sauce turns out thick, chunky, and rich. I give the sauce a whirl in the food processor, put it back in the pan, add basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. I cover the pan, leave it on the back of the stove until I need it. 

There is something about working with vegetables in the winter that feels miraculous: bright green zucchini in my hands, yielding beneath my knife, turned into perfect little half-moons that I toss with olive oil, spread on a parchment-covered baking sheet, slip into a 450-degree oven. It roasts until tender and browned in spots. Meanwhile, I put an entire package of baby spinach into a steamer, wait for it to wilt, run it under cold water, squeeze the water out, chop it up. That these plants, which I could not grow in my yard right this minute, are here in my kitchen really is a miracle even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Who goes down the aisle of the grocery store and tallies up the miracles? Maybe we all should.

Once the lasagna is assembled, I take my time washing all the dishes and utensils I used to make it, wipe the counters, pour a glass of wine. I put the foil-covered lasagna in the oven at last, its finish time expected somewhere after 6 p.m. I sit at the dining room table facing the window, watch the sky shift from sun almost coming through the clouds to a dull gray. Wind huffs through the pines in the backyard, snow shaking loose from a few branches. All winter, I’ve looked out back for the owl that used to hang out in our neighborhood; I haven’t seen it anywhere. A Prince song comes on the local radio station I’ve been listening to all afternoon: When Doves Cry. No doves in the backyard either.

The oven timer sounds. I take the foil off the lasagna, put it back for a few minutes to brown. The aroma wafts up into my face: tomatoes, cheese, spices, zucchini, spinach. A medley. In the next half hour, my partner Mick and I will sit down together, savor this food, this house, this life here in Minnesota. 

And we will know that what we have is good. Very, very good. Miraculous.

cover image courtesy of Hansuan_Fabregas, Pixabay.com.

Published by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who has published work in journals in the US, UK, and Canada.

15 thoughts on “When Making Lasagna on Sunday Afternoon Feels Miraculous

  1. Now THAT’s a lasagna, Kathleen!

    Must say I love the longer daylight in the evenings. Makes me want to get out into the yard and do spring cleanup. Of course, that’s not on your agenda right now with so much snow! Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Once again, a remarkable piece of writing that engages my senses, takes me into your yard, into your kitchen, ready to sit and converse and taste that homemade lasagna with a glass of wine. Love your writing. Love that photo.

    Liked by 1 person

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