David Boyd Ramsdale 1947-2008
Last year around this time I took a wonderful trip with my in-laws to a beach just up from Myrtle Beach. The eight of us (my mom and dad-in-law, me and spouse, kids, and sis-in-law and spouse) stayed in a large airy cottage within easy walking distance from the waves and the sand. It was a comfortable, relaxing time and being with everyone felt like home. On one of our last evenings there, while we were sitting out on the back porch enjoying port and pipes and one another’s company my father-in-law expressed his gratitude for his grown children and for the life partners they had chosen. The genuine gratitude he felt for his family was so obvious, and I felt honored to be included.
This April my dad-in-law passed away suddenly from a bacterial infection. When he died, my husband and 2 year old were already at his side in North Carolina. Jeff had expected to help his mom through his dad’s recovery and his transition home from the hospital. Instead, I was suddenly flying across the country with our one year old to join Jeff and his family as they prepared for dad’s memorial.
The photo above is of Dad R. holding my daughter last summer. He was a great Pop-pop and loved his grandchildren well–my children. He loved me well. We didn’t see each other frequently since we lived on opposite sides of the country, and way too often my in-laws came to visit right after I’d come through something particularly stressful (new baby, just finishing up a load of papers, etc) yet he loved me and was grateful for me with all my flaws. And he wasn’t perfect either–he could rub me the wrong way–yet he was passionate. He loved the Frog and Toad stories and passed that love onto my son. He owned a couple of kayaks and it was great sharing that experience with him through waterways in South Carolina. He was in his element in the home he and my mom-in-law had created for themselves, a place with a pond and a wood you could wander in for hours gathering back the scattered thoughts that get lost in the race of daily life. Spending time together at their home in the days after his death was as refreshing as it was grief filled. There is such peace there.
And yet I know that home is such an empty place for Mom R. right now. Next week is their 40th wedding anniversary. Thankfully, Mom will be in Indiana on that day with my sister-in-law celebrating the birth of her lovely daughter. Life continues and is passed on. I know my sister-in-law will remember her father well to her daughter. My husband and I will remember him well to our children every time we read Frog and Toad to them, every time we sit down in the evening to have a cup of tea with candles and NPR’s Hearts of Space for ambiance, and every time we return to wander his North Carolina woods.
And in his honor and memory, thought it but one small gesture among many, this week I decided it was time to attempt the best darn lasagna I’ve ever made. If you wanted to make him happy, you couldn’t miss with a hot pan full of fat noodles and sauce. Dad, this is for you.
Prepare preferred spaghetti sauce. This is what I made:
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 medium onion diced
One 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
One 14 oz can of tomato sauce
2 small cans of tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil
About 3 tsp dried parsley (tho I bet it would be better with a couple handfuls of fresh)
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp fennel
Dash of red pepper flakes
Salt and ground pepper to taste
2 zucchini cut into circles then quartered (optional)
Brown hamburger and saute with onion and garlic in a pot large enough to simmer a fair amount of sauce. Stir in other ingredients and simmer for at least half an hour. An hour or more is optimal. Close to the end of its simmering time, preheat the oven to 375. Mix together:
2/3 c grated parmesean
8 oz shredded mozzerella
15 oz ricotta
1 tsp dried oregeno
salt and pepper
Pull out a 9×13 pan. Pour some warm sauce in the bottom to keep the noodles from sticking, up to a cup. Put down a layer of GF lasagna noodles on the sauce then cover the noodles with half of the cheese mixture. Pour another layer of sauce (1 to 1 1/2 cups) on the cheese layer, top with more noodles, then spread on the rest of the cheese mixture. Top the cheese with sauce, add another layer of noodles. Top the noodles with just enough sauce to keep it moist and then use a mix of grated parmesean and shredded mozzerella to cover the sauce and create a top cheese layer.
This is a pretty saucy lasagna and the pan will be full. Cover with foil, spraying the foil with cooking spray before hand to prevent it from sticking to the cheese. Bake in preheated over for 25 to 35 minutes, removing the foil in the last few minutes to let the cheese brown on top.
Eat as much as you like and freeze the rest to enjoy on another day.