Spanx for the Memories

My sisters and I were all born before 1960. Dressing up in the 50s and 60s meant something a bit different than it does now. For example, outer garments often included a hat and gloves, at least if we were going to church (which was generally the reason we dressed up).

For women of the 50s and 60s, undergarments included nylons with garter belts (which, for my sisters and me, were not sexy, mostly twisted and beige with age as they were inevitably Mom’s hand-me-downs). And of course, the dreaded girdle. As young women (meaning puberty and beyond) we, too, wore these restrictive undergarments because that’s what “ladies” did.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of an acquaintance. I generally only dress up on Sundays, and mostly I wear a pair of black pants with some kind of a jacket, blouse, or sweater. So I put on a pair of black pants and a brand new lightweight knit shirt.

I took a glance in the mirror before I went downstairs. Yuck. Panty lines. I could hear my mother’s voice in my ear saying, “Nobody is looking at you, Kris,” and knew this to be true. Still, panty lines. Yuck.

So I went to my drawer and dug deep for a pair of long-unused Spanx. You know Spanx: Torture device of the old and unfit. Purportedly good for slimming your abdomen and bottom. “It takes off 10 pounds,” according to the advertisements. Yes, but those 10 pounds have to move somewhere….

Mostly I was just trying to get rid of those panty lines.

I pulled them on and had no more panty lines. But it made me think about my mother as a young woman, likely wearing a girdle much more often than I and never complaining. It really was quite horrendous when you think about it.

So, I guess I won’t. And it sure was nice when I could take it off.

I don’t usually post a recipe on Saturdays, but I wanted to be part of the family and let you know what recipe I would have my mother make if I got that last chance for her good cooking. Spareribs and sauerkraut. Yum.

I’ve mentioned before that Mom was not big on recipes, unfortunately. She wrote down a few of her specific dishes, such as her cole slaw dressing or her gazpacho. But as for her regular main dishes, not many recipes. Sometimes I try to recreate her meals from memory, but mostly I call one of my siblings, go on the Internet or look at my cookbooks and see what I can find.

That’s what I did when I decided to recreate her baked spareribs. And I found my recipe in a somewhat surprising place – one of my Lidia Bastianich cookbooks!

The recipe comes from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, copyright 2002.

Spare Ribs Roasted with Vinegar and Red Pepper

6 servings

1 rack (about 3-1/2 pounds) pork spare ribs
Sea or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, peeled
4 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 cup (or as needed) canned chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed hot red pepper

Cut the rack of spare ribs between the bones into single ribs. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pat the spare ribs dry and season them with salt and pepper. Toss them in a roasting pan into which they fit comfortably with the olive oil, garlic, and by leaves. Pour in the broth and roast, turning occasionally, until the liquid is almost completely evaporated and the ribs are golden brown, 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, stir the wine, vinegar, honey, and crushed red pepper together in a small bowl until the honey is dissolved.

Brush all sides of the ribs with some of the vinegar glaze, and then pour the remaining glaze into the roasting pan. Continue baking, turning every few minutes, until the glaze is syrupy and the ribs are mahogany brown and sticky to the touch, about 30 minutes. Spoon off as much of the fat as you like before serving the ribs.

Nana’s Notes: I used a rack of baby back ribs instead of spareribs since they seem more manageable, and I was cooking only for my husband and me. It took the whole hour before the liquid came close to being evaporated. And I’m not sure my ribs were ever sticky to the touch, but they did turn a lovely golden brown.

Lidia’s recipe doesn’t include sauerkraut, but I just buy a package of the lovely, ice-cold sauerkraut you find in the deli case at the grocery store and add it to the pan towards the end or heat it separately. To be honest, I like it cold! At some point my mom started putting apples in with her sauerkraut, I assume to make the kraut less sour. I didn’t like this, and remember trying unsuccessfully to eat around the apple. So I served the sauerkraut without apples.

It’s been fun cooking with you all week, Mom!

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