Linguine with Tuna and Peas. Lois Rogers photo
Linguine with Tuna and Peas. Lois Rogers photo
The Holy Season of Lent is a time when folks may be looking for tasty, easy-to-prepare meatless meals. Over the years, The Monitor’s freelance writer Lois Rogers has created a library of meals in her Keeping the Feast column. Check out all of her recipes at: TrentonMonitor.com/Keeping-the-Feast!

Memories of Mom and her closet pantry came sweeping in during a visit to the neighborhood grocery store March 12. There, hundreds of food shoppers were trying to get ahead of the shortages inflicted by the coronavirus.

The store was more crowded than I’ve ever seen. Busier than the weeks before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Still getting used to the evolving situation at hand, I was momentarily taken aback by the throng and the line of carts the shoppers were pushing from the back of the store to every register up front.

Then I thought of Mom and visualized the scene as she would have.

Knowing Mom, who had lived through the Great Depression, rationing in World War II, a recession or two, and hurricanes and nor'easters like “The Great March Storm of ’62,” she would have known immediately what folks were up to.

She would have recognized that they were bent on filling their carts with enough human food, household products and pet supplies to see their families through at least the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.

For Mom, who took nothing for granted, went shopping with regular deliberation herself every week. She had turned a large closet in the spare room of our house into a pantry and spent Sunday nights combing through the supermarket circulars, checking off the best prices of staples to stock it with.

There were three supermarkets in the general vicinity when we were growing up, and she hit all three every week for the specials. She kept the pantry so well-filled with soups, beans, canned vegetables, fruits, pasta and grains that when hard times hit or a storm was forecast, the family refrain was, “I guess we’ll be eating from Mom’s closet.”

Turns out my memories of Mom’s pantry were similar to those of the lady I met on the grocery store line that morning. She shared her own insights as we slowly approached the register. She talked happily about growing up as one of 14 children in a farming family.

She recalled that their family’s pantry shelves were lined with vegetables and fruits they preserved in the warm weather and got to enjoy throughout the winter. It was clear that she treasured the memories of the family pantry and the security and plain good eats it guaranteed for their table.

Driving home, I thought of Mom’s wondrous ability to turn almost any four or five ingredients from the pantry into a fine meal. Her Lenten recipes, many of which have appeared in “Keeping the Feast” over the years, reflect that gift. One of my most favorites featured pasta and peas.

Over the years, she adapted it in many ways, sometimes adding cherry tomatoes or canned mushrooms or asparagus.

I recently discovered the version that appears below in an old, annotated cookbook of hers. In this version, she adds canned tuna and a cream sauce to the basic linguine and peas. Mild and soothing, it’s a good dish for these trying times.

 

A Catholic Meal Prayer 

For food in a world where many walk in hunger; For faith in a world where many walk in fear; For friends in a world where many walk alone; We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.

Source: From a collection of Catholic prayers on the Heavenly Divine website