Monday, February 2, 2009

Home cooking, Italian-style

We are parked at a Wal-Mart somewhere in the Dallas/Fort Worth megalopolis. No map link or further details today to respect the privacy of our hosts last night.

When we were within striking distance of Dallas we contacted our friends Neal and Cali to let them know we'd be passing through town, and asked if they might have time to get together. What we had in mind was perhaps dinner at a restaurant someplace convenient to a Wal-Mart, or some such. And, of course, we are so out of touch with popular culture that we did not even realize that it was Super Bowl Sunday.

Much to our surprise and delight, they instead invited us to their house for a home-cooked meal and, nominally, to watch the game. They served up a fantastic homemade lasagna, which we watched them create from scratch, including house-made pasta and cooked-all-day meat sauce, all sights and smells that reminded me of growing up in an Italian household where tomato-based pasta sauce was called "gravy" and nothing came out of a jar.

Between the cooking, the drinking, and the chatting, I don't think any one of us caught even a single play of the game. We were vaguely aware of the score at various times, including after it was over, and were somewhat disappointed because the Cardinals' defeat probably meant fewer revelers coming in to our restaurant in downtown Phoenix, which can use the extra business.

Cali and Neal were superb hosts, and the hours rolled away -- we arrived before kick-off, and didn't get back to the bus until midnight. Thanks, guys! This is also the second time these good folks have fed us dinner, so it is our turn next time for sure, and the pressure is on -- the lasagna set a high bar.

We were still in Shreveport when we started making these arrangements; in hindsight, I should have waited a day, as Shreveport to Dallas on US-80 is a five-hour drive, more than we usually choose to do on a routine basis. Still, it was a beautiful drive, following and criss-crossing the Sabine River. The little downtown business districts were very quiet on a Sunday afternoon, and traffic was also light coming into Dallas, making us glad we chose to come the whole way on Sunday and not a weekday.

Today we will head west out of the big city, well before the afternoon exodus starts, and we'll divert off I-20 near Weatherford onto US-180, which will take us due west all the way to Hobbs, New Mexico.

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