Monday, April 25, 2016

Pastastically Yours

This is not a pasta-making recipe. This is my experience of making (rather assembling) pasta for the first time. As much as I love Italy for travel, I am not a fan of pizzas or pastas. Now my sister has this annoying (endearing according to mom) habit of putting close-up pictures of everything she cooks on Facebook. I find it annoying because someday, I would be chewing my way through dry and leathery, tasteless whole wheat toast wondering if pet food tastes the same when I see close up pictures of tandoori chicken and fish tikka. So this morning, when I saw pictures of pasta, I was like, I've got to make this. It didn't matter that I am not a fan of Italian food at all. Just like you see your friend buy a nice house with a yard or acquire a catch of a partner and go like, "I've got to get this too, whether I want it or not!" Sibling rivalry kicked in, and it was war! (In my mind of course, she had no clue).

I started with studying the picture first to see what all she had put. Half the ingredients were missing from my kitchen, since tomorrow is grocery day. I had no mushrooms or bell peppers or grated cheese. But whenever in self-doubt, I always tell myself, "If I can finish grad school, I can [make pasta/drive cross-country/learn German/insert any action verb of your choice]." (although the two events are not correlated). I knew I was not going to look up Google or YouTube for pasta recipes. Just like your average guy does not believe in reading maps or asking for directions, and refuses to reform even after being lost in the Amazon rainforests for months, I refused to look up recipes. The picture she posted and my gut instincts (pun unintended) about cooking would have to suffice.

"So what all goes into pasta?" I asked myself, standing in the kitchen. Olive oil, came the first thought. Since my kitchen is not pasta-friendly, I contemplated if I could use hair oil instead. Wisdom kicked in soon, and I realized that the hair oil I use claims to be fortified with amla and not olives.

So I fried onions and garlic (not in hair oil), added frozen carrots and peas, and added salt and pepper. Many months ago, a neighbor had left me an unopened bag of pasta when he left his apartment that I was planning to take to Calcutta for my Bengali family with misplaced Italian identities. I boiled that pasta separately and dunked it in cold water. I had no idea what white sauce or red sauce was made of, so I diluted the Indian chili sauce bought from Chandni Chowk and used it as sauce. I added a few thin slices of the cheese I eat with milk every morning. Seems like in my excitement, I had forgotten to go easy on the pepper. How to alleviate spice? Boiled potatoes came to mind, but potatoes in pasta? Whole milk was another idea. I added a generous helping of it, which not only alleviated my burning taste buds, but also brought a soupy, mac and cheese kind of consistency (I always associate soup with health food, never mind this was a cheese and starch soup). Looked like my ad-hoc assembly of pasta turned out to be pretty palatable, even without the olive oil and the Italian herbs and spices. I am still not a fan of pasta, and will probably not make it for the next few years. Basic Indian food, I can cook. But I don't get this pasta-pesto-pistuto business. Antilog, I get, but anti-pasti? You can argue that I could have saved myself all the trouble by dining at an Italian restaurant. But I can bet that it would have cost ten times more and taste not even half as good as my Chandni Chowk chili sauce waala pasta. 


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