Plain Buttered Noodles

 (Almost) Plain Buttered Noodles. June, 2011.

The Importance of Speaking Up
One Sunday morning in October of 1964, my dad woke my sister and me with big news: “The baby is on the way. I’m going to take you girls to Sunday school, then I’ll take your mom to the hospital. After church, you go home with the Uhls. Grandma and Grandpa will pick you up from their house this afternoon.”
My big sister and I scrambled to prepare for church, socks crooked and hair not-so-tidy. Dad loaded us into the station wagon and we rolled out of the driveway, on our way to becoming a family of five. 
After my kindergarten Sunday school class, I headed over to the fellowship hall. Mrs. Uhl was looking for us. “There you are,” she called out. “You girls must be so excited today! Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” 
I stared at my shoes. Mr. Uhl walked up, tall and slender like my daddy–so much so that once at church I had approached him from behind, taken his hand, and walked along with him for several paces before I looked up and realized it wasn’t my daddy’s hand I’d taken. 
The embarrassment of that morning surfaced again, burning my cheeks and freezing my tongue. 
My sister and I climbed into the immense back seat of their blue Pontiac. Mr. Uhl drove and Mrs. Uhl chirped about babies and grandmas and I rode, quiet, with my big sister, to their home. 

Rummaging through a closet, Mrs. Uhl tugged down a box of puzzles to entertain us and disappeared into the kitchen to prepare lunch. Mr. Uhl picked up the newspaper and retreated into his den. My sister and I sat on the floor with a 1,000-piece puzzle, a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, rust-colored and foggy, floating above the blue, blue bay. 

I wore a blue flowered dress with pearly buttons that my mother had sewn for me. It felt good to be wrapped in something Mom had made, sitting on the floor in the Uhl’s living room, waiting for my grandparents–and lunch.

Aromas drifted out from the kitchen to tease my nose: garlic, tomato sauce, basil. I stared at puzzle pieces too complex for my five-year-old hands and felt my dress hug me.

I hoped Grandma and Grandpa would arrive soon.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Uhl called us to the table. “Girls, you can sit here,” she announced, kindly pulling out two chairs. I took my seat and surveyed the table.

Mr. and Mrs. Uhl had plates of spaghetti, curving mounds of pasta cloaked in the sauce I’d smelled earlier, red and chunky and steaming of deliciousness.

Before my sister and I sat two plates of plain buttered spaghetti noodles. 

I’d never eaten plain noodles before. The spaghetti sauce crowning the grown-ups’ pasta smelled soooooooo inviting. But there was no sauce on my plate, no sauce destined for my plate on the table.
I picked up my fork and did my best to enjoy the pale heap of glistening noodles. They slid down my throat like live things, naked and shiny.

A few decades later I told my brother the story of the day he was born. When I described our lunch, Mom chimed in: “I’m sure Mrs. Uhl would have given you sauce if you’d asked her. I bet her children didn’t like spaghetti sauce when they were small.”
It’s a lesson I’m still learning. I may not get everything I request. Desired things may be right before me yet out of reach, like that fragrant spaghetti sauce all those years ago. But I have a loving Father in heaven. If I remember that my shame before Him has been washed away, I find the courage and trust to ask Him to fulfill my needs. Maybe He’ll tell me to wait. Maybe He’ll give me plain noodles.

But maybe He’ll give me the sauce, too.
1 The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 
Psalm 23:1-3 (NASB)

I’m linking up today with Ann Kroeker for Food on Fridays. Won’t you drop by and have a look?


  1. This is gorgeous, in every detail. And, as a parent who watched her children eat many-a-plate of hot, buttered noodles, I had to laugh. You've given me a lovely picture here to help me remember to ask. Blessings, Sheila.

  2. Thank you, Nancy, for your kind words and your blessings 🙂

    My sister and I were pretty broad of palate as children. I remember the disappointment my parents shared when we got big enough to each eat a whole artichoke ourselves…previously Mom would serve us each a whole one. Then she and Dad would enjoy an extra heart apiece, as we'd abandon the effort before we discovered the treasure hidden beneath the leaves.

    My little brother–HE was the picky eater.

  3. I love this memory and all that it stirred up in you both then and now, Sheila.

    We made the plain spaghetti at our house because two kids preferred plain…not because they were forced. 🙂 In fact, we provided a red sauce option that one (maybe two) refused.

    But your thoughts at the end give pause: Sometimes we don't have because we don't ask.

    Is there something right now in my life that I'm stoically accepting without asking for something different?

  4. A Joyful Noise

    We enjoy our spaghetti with sauce, but my granddaughter loves hers plain with a bit of butter. At five years old, and so shy, I can't imagine you requesting some of that sauce. Yet we as Christians do not receive because we ask not. Awesome Post and greatly enjoyed.

  5. I love fried noodles… With syrup.

    And fried spam.

    It was fun to read your memory 😉

  6. Ann,
    I was raised to be stoic. It isn't always good for me. And sometimes I am less compassionate than I could be as a result.

    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed.

    Syrup and spam. I think I'll take your word for it. Glad you had fun 🙂

  7. When I saw the title of your post I had to come see. I have one of those sauce-averse kiddos. If I had a nickel for everytime I've made butter noodles! I love your story, so well-told. You had me there in every way. Wonderful storytelling, Sheila!

  8. I hope you weren't disappointed to not find a recipe, Laura–though who needs a recipe for buttered noodles?

    Thanks for your kind words.

  9. I loved your story. We have a grandson, who lives in New Mexico and is now 17. When he was living with us and we had spaghetti, he would always have his with butter instead of sauce. We learned to serve the pasta and sauce in separate bowls on the table.

  10. Red,
    I am sure poor Mrs. Uhl would be rolling in her grave to know how much I wanted a spoonful of sauce on my pasta! She was a kind woman…I'm sure she would have been mortified to know.

  11. I originally skipped over this blog offering, seemingly too busy to take the few seconds it would take to read. Oh, how I needed to read this one! Sometimes one has to wait, sometimes one gets the sauce, or a different and (usually in hindsight a) better sauce. What's important is to ask, seek, knock, engage with and in our Lord. Thank you for your gift, Sheila!

  12. Thank you, Suz. I'm happy you found something of use here.

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