Mom, Spaghetti Sauce and the Man Who Looked Like Ricardo Montalban

Quite a title, huh? It seems that Ricardo Montalban needs  his own post, (more or less), since his name keeps coming up in posts and  comments here lately.I mentioned that I had an amusing story involving my mother and Janette the Tuesday Fox suggested I tell it on this my day of our Free Week. So here we are.

It is hard to tell without some background.Believe me when I tell you that I have started this and gone on about the difference between northern Italians,(my mother’s people ), and the more commonly known southern Italians and told  more spaghetti sauce tales, but not to try your patience, I edited greatly. I feel, however, that I must explain why my mother left the room.The reason?The spaghetti sauce.

So here is an edited version of the story that I had written, or shall I say, “put to paper” , as  it is precisely what transpired one afternoon, many years ago:

I heard,“STIR THE SPAGHETTI SAUCE!” I can’t even begin to imagine how many times my mother said that, or a variation: “While you’re in there, stir the spaghetti sauce, will you?” Or, after coming out of the kitchen, “Did you stir the spaghetti sauce?” I was supposed to know without being told, but she was going to check. If my answer would be negative, I’d spin around on one heel and get back in there ASAP; there was a wooden spoon waiting by the pot, already used a dozen times or more.

Along with the call to stir the spaghetti sauce was a call to me to “taste the spaghetti sauce.” Mom discovered my delicate palate when I was very young and always took full advantage of it. The creation of spaghetti sauce was an art to my mother; that is no exaggeration. It took at least seven hours to create her sauce. She took into consideration the variations in the meat, tomato products, onions, garlic; the strength of her herbs and spices, and the weather. Everything had to be added in the proper amounts, which were adjusted to meet all of the variables, and added at the perfect time; not one could be added in the wrong order. A kettle of water was kept just below boiling, a spoon propped to keep the whistling ones quiet. Small amounts of this was added at varying intervals, lest the simmering succulent sauce be shocked. There are three ingredients that go in near the end of cooking; one first, to cook in, and then the others, just a few minutes before it is finished. The timing of those were, to her, (as were all the others), quite crucial.

Once, I was doing something in the kitchen and heard the “stir the spaghetti sauce” call, then, “Come here and look at this man, he looks just like Ricardo Montalban.” I said, interested, “Where?” Mom said, “On this movie, come and see how much he looks like Ricardo Montalban.” “OK, I’ll be there”. I was in the big kitchen doing something, working with my hands, doing something I did not feel like stopping.
“Really”, she called again, “you need to see this man,I can’t get over how much he looks like Ricardo Montalban”. “What movie is it?”,I asked. “I don’t know. I just stumbled across it. It’s a movie from Down There, and I stopped because the man looks just like Ricardo Montalban.”
(Well, Down There was almost anywhere Mom needed for it to be, depending on the context. It could be anywhere from North Carolina to south of the equator, western or eastern hemisphere. Over There, or Over Thataway could be anywhere from a mile away, to the Middle East, Europe or Asia. Up Thataway was upper New England, Iceland and Scandinavia. Up There was Canada, Alaska, the Arctic and the upper Midwest. Out There was the backyard, the West, or Space.)
“This fella’s has run away, and he’s up in the mountains with an old man and his daughter. There’s something going on between him and the girl and I don’t blame her; he looks just like Ricardo Montalban.”
“Come on! I think it’s about to go off and you have to see how much this man looks like Ricardo Montalban!” I put down whatever I was working on, and went into the living room. “Did you stir the spaghetti sauce? Did you taste it? Is it ready, (for her to add the finishing touches)?[Almost] Look at him! Doesn’t he look like Ricardo Montalban? Wait till he turns around. Look! Look! Doesn’t he look just like him? I can’t get over how much he looks like Ricardo Montalban” I agreed, and stayed to watch. (Hey, I enjoy a good-looking man any day. I’ll never forget the movie. The police had come searching for the man, by request of his wife. The girl said something like, “Stay with me! Your wife can get other men, but I have only you!” I thought,” No wonder he’s going back. That isn’t very flattering.”) “Look at him? Can you believe how much he looks like Ricardo Montalban?” Mom left to finish the spaghetti sauce, because spaghetti sauce waited for time, tide and no man, no matter how much he may look like Ricardo Montalban. As the movie went off, I watched for the credits. “Hey Mom! You know why that man looked like Ricardo Montalban? It was Ricardo Montalban.” “WHAT?” came a surprised cry. She came to the doorway. I said, “It was Ricardo Montalban. No wonder it looked just like him.” With one hand on her hip she said, to my total amazement, “He didn’t look that much like Ricardo Montalban.”

Suffice it to say, every time she said that someone looked like someone else, I asked her how much he looked like Ricardo Montalban.

[FYI…I made a pretty good batch of sauce the other day myself, although it is not as great as my mother’s. But since none of you have ever tasted my mothers, come to dinner!]

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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10 Responses to Mom, Spaghetti Sauce and the Man Who Looked Like Ricardo Montalban

  1. Iris B says:

    I, of course, had to look up who Ricardo actually is/was. I do apologise. But the story is funny and I bet there are many out there who’ve been in the same situation. 🙂

    As for northern/southern Italians, and the difference …. oh yeah, I know what you mean 😉


    • Really? You didn’t know Ricardo Montalban? What you have missed! Pictures don’t do justice to Ricardo Montalban. He was suave and charming…and what a voice!
      Thank you about Italians! It is hard to go into without a very long defense as to why people have the wrong impression of all Italians by what they may have experienced.I did not know why they (we?) had such terrible reputations until I encountered the reasons myself. I guess a simplistic explanation is that many more southern Italians emigrate.Southern Italy is a hard place with poor land and the people have it very hard; they often leave nothing behind and arrive with even less. Whereas Northern Italy has great farmland, vineyards and olive groves; the people are better off financially, better educated and so culture flourishes. Until the last couple of decades, they seldom emigrated.
      Should the people in the north be kinder to those in the south and spread their gifts? Would they be accepted?Could it be maintained? I don’t have answers, but … thanks.


      • Iris B says:

        Well first … I knew his face, but not the name, but can’t really recall many if any of the movies with him.
        Do Italians have a bad reputation? I didn’t think so ….


      • Bless you, My Dear, yes,Italians have a bad reputation in many places…unfortunately some elements have given the rest a ‘black eye”.
        Ricardo was big in movies in the 1950’s.He swam with Esther Williams and sang with Janette McDonald. He did mostly dramatic roles including many, many TV shows in the ’50’s-90’s.He reprised his role from a one-time guest spot on the original Star Trek in the Star Trek movie”The Wrath of Khan” in 1982.It made him a bigger star than ever. He worked until the end, doing voice roles.


      • Iris B says:

        Now there’s a name I know: ESTHER WILLIAMS. Jeez, she was a good swimmer!
        Not a fan of star trek, so that’s probably why he’s not THAT familiar to me 😉


      • Good old Esther! She got to swim with Ricardo and marry Ferdinando Lamas!
        Well, looks like we won’t be having a Star Trek-themed month!


  2. jeff7salter says:

    I’ve always enjoyed Ricardo M., going back to his movies in the 1950s. Surprisingly I didn’t care for him all that much in Paradise Island, or whatever it was called.
    He was always great in his voice overs on TV commercials too.
    Love the anecdote with your mom and that movie made “down there.”
    Laughed out loud when she abruptly shifted from trying to convince herself it was Ricardo … to denying it was even possible.


    • I’m glad I made you laugh,Jeff.I truly wondered if it came off as well on paper as it did in real life.Even she would joke about it;I never let her live it down!
      Fantasy Island, and I agree…not his most shining moments.


  3. pjharjo says:

    LOL! “He didn’t look that much like Ricardo Montalban.” After ALL her fuss?LOL! When can I come to dinner? 🙂


    • I’m glad you talked me into telling the story and I’m glad you liked it! Yes, when I found my voice, I raised holy heck…”Do you realize HOW MANY TIMES you said he looked JUST LIKE Ricardo Montalban? You dragged me in here because the guy looked JUST LIKE Ricardo Montalban? You made me look at him from every angle BECAUSE YOU SAID he looked JUST LIKE Ricardo Montalban and now you say he doesn’t???!! Are you kidding me?
      Nope, she wasn’t.

      Jump on a plane any time,Janette; the invitation stands!(I’ll have some sauce frozen ,so come any time!)


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