14 February 2008

Late Night Musings

While cooking some pasta last night I wound up thinking about my friend William. I pretty much think about him every time I cook pasta, although I haven't seen him in over fifteen years (though nearly caught up with him at the turning of the millenium) and haven't exchanged email or anything with him in probably seven years. The reason I think about him is that he's the person who showed me how to slightly twist a bunch of spaghetti before letting it fall into the boiling water. I still remember how "Eureka!" that moment felt to me. I suppose to most people in the world, cooking pasta is a very ordinary event, but to this day, when I stand some spaghetti in a pot and then let it fall in a spiral, I feel a little thrill.

This got me thinking later that night about food memories. I guess they keep coming back because you never stop eating and the food still tastes like it did the first time, bringing the memory right back again. Especially if you're as into food as I am. (I do realise that I've just rather inelegantly re-capped that famous bit about madeleines and tea, but they're my own inelegant words, so there.)

I'll think of Jill every time I eat artichokes. A "wow!" moment when she showed me how to steam one and dip the leaves one by one into scrummy dip, after which I willfully broke away from her recipe (lemon juice with a tiny bit of melted butter) and ventured into high-fat territory (melted butter with a squeeze of lemon juice, and aioli, and anything with lots of butter).

Gosh, anyone reading this who's never met me would never know that I am NOT as big as a house. /laugh/

I also remember my sister "inventing" cheese cooked in a pan, after realising that her favorite part of a grilled cheese sandwich was the cheese that melts out the sides and browns in the pan. At the time, we thought she was weird. She was just in the wrong family! She should have been born to a Swiss or French family... of course, raclette is not traditionally made with a slice of American cheese.

Whenever I cook eggs, I think of my first boyfriend, who astonished me by cooking his eggs in butter. As my parents cooked everything in vegetable oil, it had never occurred to me to cook eggs in butter. His mother is German, hence the butter. I now definitely prefer eggs cooked in butter. Also broccoli cooked in butter. And most anything cooked in butter.

Which reminds me, when I first flew to Australia (to visit my not-yet-husband and in fact he was my not-yet-fiance), I went on Air New Zealand and was amazed by the delicious butter served on the plane -- a weird thing to be impressed by, but I later found out that New Zealand is in fact renowned for its dairy. I learned in the Gina Mallet book (see my list of good reads) that a small increase in the quantity of butter fat can make a world of difference in the taste of the butter, so I'm guessing that's what impressed.

This entry is starting to be all about butter... when my hubby (pre-affiancing) first asked me how I like my toast buttered, I answered him truthfully, although afraid of seeming fussy, that I like to let the toast cool slightly so that when I butter it, the butter doesn't melt all the way. I was gratified when he replied that he did exactly the same thing! The first in a long list of things we do the same (to match the equally long list of things we like to do exactly opposite).

Meanwhile, here is the little pasta recipe (without any butter) I made up last night:

2 small onions, diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
2 red capsicums (bell peppers), diced small
approx 1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large chorizo sausage, diced small
handful arugula leaves, chopped coarsely
handful fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely

Cook the onion on low heat in some olive oil until softened, then stir in the garlic, capsicum, mushrooms and sausage. Keep going until the mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the fresh herbs. Serve over spaghetti tossed with fruity olive oil or chili infused oil, and garnish with grated Romano cheese or crumbled Danish feta. (I think some fresh sage would also go well, but I didn't have any to try when I made this dish.) If this dish isn't saucy enough for your tastes, add some diced tomatoes to the pan as well and let them cook down a bit.


  1. William became a Dad to a baby girl some time around Christmas. Z stays in touch with him to some extent. I have a ton of food memories associated with you too - I guess such is your first kitchen-mate away from home. My Mom has never cooked onions or mushrooms. I remember making meals of just onions and mushrooms when we were roomates!

  2. Wow, I'll have to get in touch with him. I didn't even know he was with anybody (married?)

    I remember all sorts of "first foods" with you... raisin bran muffins... crudites... quiche... I can't believe your mom doesn't use mushrooms or onions! (two items I'd need on a desert island)