In this, her second memoir, New Prairie Woman is Susie Rosso Wolf’s depiction of her journey from Los Angeles to the historical town of Three Forks, Montana. On these pages you will discover the grandeur of “The Last Best Place” through her writing, poetry and photography, the challenges of living in a twenty foot trailer in sub-zero temperatures and how love, perseverance, and the miracle of faith can lift a soul up from the depths of the deepest, darkest waters.
Born in Santa Monica, California, I was raised in the small bedroom community of Sunkist Park that borders Culver City, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice. I attended Venice High School, West LA Community College and California Institute of the Arts. My studies included English, English Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Choir, Classical Voice, Shakespeare, Musical Theater, Television and Film Acting and Art History. In 1980, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest and in 1982 I married Kurt Wolf in Corvallis, Oregon. During the course of our long journey together, I have remained devoted to not only my husband, but to my friends and family, and the arts. What defines me most is my passion for expression through art. I’m an avid reader, writer and poet.I also enjoy painting and photography. Additionally, some folks consider me a pretty good cook.
New Prairie Woman Susie Rosso Wolf Chapter Four, con't
With the air conditioning cranked on high in Blackie, my Italian groceries remained quite cold as I came over the hill from Culver City. Once home, I quickly loaded them into the fridge then began making myself an espresso to go along with one of the Napoleon’s Ursula had packed for me. While sitting for a little rest, I smiled at the thought of my silliness. Although I would not openly admit it, I knew exactly why I had driven all that way to buy the best Italian products money could buy this side of Palermo; if there was even the slightest chance that I would muster up the courage to face Robert at the Ontario airport, there was no way in all good conscience, that I could do it without taking him some of Aunt Susie’s Manicotti. It had been his favorite recipe of mine and from time to time I would make him a large tray just for him to enjoy. And although he loved all of my cooking, particularly my pasta dishes, it was my Manicotti that he would die for. So, while I delighted in the fresh pastry and espresso topped with a frothy hot hand whipped steamed milk, I began to peel garlic on my small cutting board that I placed next to me on the kitchen table and then I pinched off the beautiful large leaves of basil from their stems then placed them into my stainless steel colander.
Always starting with the vegetables, I sautéed two chopped onions and eight cloves of garlic, pressed, in olive oil. Adding the fresh basil, anisette seeds and dried rosemary filled the entire house with the aroma that never failed to take me back home to Bray Street. While the onions and garlic were sweating, I began opening up all of the cans of imported tomatoes. I poured them all into my largest cooking pot and then I grabbed them up into my hands and began the crushing process. Squeezing as hard as my hands could and trying to hold onto the slippery juicy fruit, the process of making sauce from the whole tomatoes was a therapeutic ritual. I was crushing more than tomatoes there in my kitchen; I crushed away so much fear and anger and doubt, I began to imagine my beautiful nephew holding me in his arms for a long and thoughtful embrace. The idea of seeing him again filled me with a tingling sensation, and for the first time in three years a pain so deeply buried began to lift from my heart.
Once the sauce was started on a good low flame, I cooked the Italian sausage, drained it, and then added it to the sauce. I dropped in two cans of pitted black olives and then began to re season with more fresh basil, rosemary, oregano, a little salt, a pinch of crushed red pepper, black pepper and a sprinkling of sugar. The sauce was looking good now so I left it alone with the lid of the pot half cracked and headed down the hall to our bedroom to change out of my cooking clothes that were covered in red stains from the tomatoes. Just as I finished changing, I heard a voice yelling “Hello! Susie?”
“Hi Miss Jo, please come in!”
“I had to come over to see what you’re cooking I can smell it all the way over at my house! What are you making this time?”
“Manicotti, eventually, I just have the sauce started now.”
“It smells so good I could stay for dinner!”
“It’s not for us; otherwise I’d invite you and Ralph later this week when it comes out of the oven.”
“Later this week? Who’s it for?”
“It’s for Robert.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re going to Ontario?”
“No, I’m not kidding, I’m going to take him his favorite meal so he has something to eat in-between flights. I thought we could have a tailgate party at the airport while he waits for his connecting flight back to Montana and this way, it would be a good ice breaker.”
“Well, now you’re thinking! You know the way to a man’s heart is right smack dab there in his belly!”
“Here Jo, taste the sauce!”
I gave her a teaspoon of the red sauce and her eyes rolled as she sipped it up from the tip of the spoon. “Good God girl, you are one extraordinary cook!”
“Thanks Jo, that means a lot coming from you.”
We talked for a while out in the rose garden and every so often I would go into the kitchen through the French doors in the living room to turn the sauce and to make sure it wasn’t boiling. Eventually our visit ended with me bowing out of a walk around Napa Street so that I could begin the process of making the Manicotti filling to stuff the shells. I said goodbye to Jo and watched her walk through our little gate then kept my eyes on her as she sauntered up to her house. I couldn’t help but think of her, as she left me that afternoon, marveling at her courage. John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway,” and boy was he right about that. Jo was the epitome of that sentiment. Each time I looked at her hands I felt a deep sense of pride in knowing someone who faces her own challenges with great dignity. She exemplified the meaning of courage as she dared to live each day to the fullest despite her limitations.