My dad was a plain-clothes cop who worked crazy shifts, but the joke was that he didn’t work hard at all because he was always eating at my grandparents’ house, which was not far from his precinct on Long Island. He’d put his police radio on their kitchen counter, turn the volume down low enough so that you couldn’t hear the high-frequencey squeals, and fix himself a bowl of escarole soup.
There was always escarole soup at my grandparents’ house: My grandfather, who worked as a manager at the Associated grocery store down the block, would often start the soup early in the morning, before he left for work, and by the time Dad would stop by for lunch, the onions and escarole and big, fat, chuck meatballs had turned the broth all sweet and meaty. If the soup wasn’t on the stove, it was probably in the refrigerator; he’d sup on it cold, like we did with the leftovers at our own house; like my husband and son and I do at our own house now.
We all loved this soup, craved its peppery broth, sneaked its meatballs in the middle of the night, lugged it to the office in harvest gold Tupperware despite the looks it got from co-workers (escarole soup is many things; attractive is not one of them). If I went to Denise Rufolo or Jennifer Faiella’s house after school and their mom was serving their version of escarole soup for dinner—with white beans, or with diminutive meatballs made with chicken, or with shards of pasta instead of rice—I would feel bad for my friends. They didn’t know what they were missing.