The sixth episode of Netflix’s limited series From Scratch shows a couple affected by cancer deciding to expand their family after a loss.
The critically acclaimed memoir of the same name by actress Tembi Locke follows her love path with her late husband Saro and how she ventures to his homeland of Sicily with their daughter after his death. The show features a fictional adaptation of her story.
It’s fall 2006, 18 months after Lino, played by Eugenio Mastrandrea, is declared cancer-free. He learns his father has died suddenly from a heart attack in the fields he farmed in Sicily. Consoled by his wife Amy, played by Zoë Saldaña, Lino thinks it’s time for them to be parents. His cancer has been at bay with a clinical trial ending.
Like many couples, they begin looking at in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination for the chance of having a biological child. Amy feels overwhelmed about the prospects of putting her body through a lot of changes to have a baby. She doesn’t have a problem with adopting a baby, and Lino realizes he feels the same way.
Six months later, Amy and Lino are in the wedding party for Amy’s sister Zora, played by Danielle Deadwyler. As soon as the ceremony ends, Amy and Lino receive the call for their daughter. They rush to the hospital to meet with the birth mother, a UCLA student who says she and the baby’s father can finish school without worry now that their daughter will be placed with the right couple.
She explains the couple’s adversity with their interracial and intercultural union and battle with cancer are the reasons why she thought they’d be good parents. The birth mother appears to be Asian while the birth father appears to be Black, making the baby biracial. Lino leaves the room to give Amy and the birth mother more privacy. Amy learns the baby reminds the birth mother of her grandmother, Rose. She adds Rose as a middle name for Idalia, which she says means “behold the sun” in Italian.
In an interview before the series premiered, Tembi said her daughter Zoela chose the name Idalia for the character based on her.
Baby Idalia goes home where Amy’s mother Lynn, played by Kellita Smith, and her stepmother Maxine, played by Judith Scott, have a fight. A natural health enthusiast, Lynn suggests Amy buy breast milk online to feed Idalia. But Maxine thinks buying bodily fluids from random women on the internet is a bad idea. Maxine, who was unable to birth her own children, feels that her insight is ignored simply because she never gave birth.
“Heirlooms” is the chapter in the memoir marking one year after Saro’s death. Tembi is fielding phone calls from her family members who are flying to Los Angeles from Texas to be with her and eight-year-old Zoela on the anniversary. The chapter name is not for heirloom tomatoes but for fava beans grown from Sicilian seeds in their LA garden. Tembi tells her mother-in-law she plans to serve fava beans to her family and friends in commemoration of her late husband.
“She knew about the heirloom beans, passed down through generations in Sicily, that we had been growing every year,” she writes. “It made her happy to imagine them growing in foreign soil, feeding us thousands of miles away. She gave me tips on how to keep the beans creamy once pureed… I hung up the phone and looked at the pile of fava beans. Some people have heirloom jewelry. I had fava beans.”
Zoela’s adoption story similar to Idalia’s is featured in the chapter “Something Great.”
“My family had welcomed my cousin into our kin by way of international adoption just one year before Saro and I had walked down the aisle,” Tembi writes. “I was watching her grow up from a distance, seeing her at holidays and family gatherings. I saw the joy in her parents’ eyes. I saw the love. I saw the way adoption was deeply intentional and expanding. I saw another way a family could be formed, and I was hooked.”
Like in the show with Amy and Lino, Tembi and Saro decide to be honest about the cancer in the medical history section of their adoption application. After three months, they are placed with their daughter. The call about her birth comes when Tembi is at a Pilates class in LA’s Silver Lake. The couple flies to San Francisco to pick up their daughter.
“We told the birth mom what we planned to name the baby: Zoela. Saro and I loved the name, an ancient Italian moniker meaning ‘piece of the earth,'” Tembi writes. “We thought it symbolic for the child who had brought strangers together. Her name reflected the diversity of her biology and cultures. She was African American, Filipina, Italian, and even, Saro added, Sicilian.”
Back to the show’s episode, Lino undergoes a scan. Him dropping his wedding ring into a plastic tray while dressed in a hospital gown before heading into the scan becomes a regular shot throughout the series. He’s always being checked for cancer. Upon his new fatherhood, he remains cancer-free, for now.
Fast forward to fall 2011. Idalia is a four-year-old sous chef in Lino’s kitchen when she flips a frittata. Idalia and Lino chat about her school’s social scene with the kids and their mothers. Lino is a stay-at-home dad while Amy carries on with her art career to support the family. With Lino still using a cane because of the cancer starting in his knee, he’s still unable to stand for long hours in a kitchen as a chef.
Seeing the close bond between Lino and Idalia, Amy starts to feel jealous that she doesn’t get enough time with Idalia since she’s the sole breadwinner. She confides in Zora that she hates how cancer has disrupted their lives. Lino not being able to work and getting checked for cancer have put a strain on their relationship, Amy shares. She’s upset about her jealousy since the time Lino has with Idalia is precious.
At home, Amy is struggling to keep up with yet another conversation about Idalia’s friends and their mothers and who’s bringing what to a potluck. She finally breaks down to Lino with letting him know she’s jealous of the bonding time he has with their daughter. Lino argues he’s jealous, too. He can’t work as a chef; he can’t do the job he loves.
The episode jumps to spring 2014 where Amy has cut her hours at work to spend more time with Idalia. Lino starts a cooking class, where he can do what he loves in a controlled amount of time.
One day, they eat corndogs together at home. Lino fell for corndogs in the second episode of the series when he goes to an American supermarket for the first time. But this time, Lino chokes on the corndog. Though he tells Amy the corndog bite went down the wrong hole, Lino looks concerned while looking at his family, who are chatting and eating away unaware of the concern.
Lino gets another scan. While waiting for his results, he plans a date night with Amy. They dance carefully. Amy notices a bad rash on Lino’s wrist. Later in their bathroom, Amy finds a hospital bracelet and notices Lino had a scan without telling her. All signs are pointing to the cancer making a return; a reality they tried to avoid, and have avoided, for several years. Now as parents, the stakes are higher. Lino’s concern has transferred to Amy.