Dear Mrs Hazan:
I have belittled you for years as one of those fussy, unnecessarily picky, froufrou cooks.
Encouraged by reports on this board, I went to my local bookshop and thumbed through your cookbooks. I copied out the recipe for your Bolognese sauce (and, as an aside, how many thirty-year-old men are there on this Earth who can write in Gregg shorthand?), stopped off at the butcher and the Italian market to get the meat and the ingredients, and proceeded to make the sauce. Uncharacteristically, I decided to follow the recipe to the letter; I typically use recipes simply as inspiration.
I have to admit that after being told to cook the meat in the milk first to "protect" it from the acidity of the wine and tomatoes, I was not feeling particularly charitable toward you. "Just the sort of fussy thing I'd expect," I muttered.
You'll never know, though, how hard it was for me to cook it the entire three hours. After one hour, having made and hung the tagliatelle to accompany, I was salivating. After two hours, the dog was trying to climb the stove, and I kept having to pull her down -- she was between me and that wafting odour! After two and a half hours, the neighbours came next door to find out what on earth smelled so good. I put two more plates out on the table and made a quick salad out of shaved fennel, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice.
It was insanely good. No-one said a word through the entire meal. We were too busy shoveling food into our mouths. The dog whined for an hour to get some of the sauce. When we were done we had consumed a double recipe of tagliatelle and the entire recipe of Bolognese sauce, the aforementioned fennel salad, and a ricotta-and-pear tart. Four people.
I walked -- nay, I waddled -- back to the bookstore and paid for your book. It will be in a place of honour on my bookshelf once I have got through it (I am currently on the risotto section, and I'm happy to see that you are not one of those people for whom risotto is some kind of deep magic, but a matter of a fairly simple technique).
Chastised but more open-minded, I remain
Yours in the pursuit of delectable meat sauce,