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22 June 2006

Unorthodoxy in Cooking

Last night, while the Consort was out playing Ultimate, I did something. Something so amazing and unorthodox that I still can’t believe I did it: I boiled some eggs with the pasta I was cooking for dinner. In the same pot. At the same time. Now, let me warn you that when the Consort finds out about this, you will hear his shock (and he doesn’t read the blog every day, so it may be next week). Even if you are in another state, even if you live across an ocean, his gasp of distress will be heard. Because, you see, the Consort has this “thing” about pasta.

Back when we were poor students,we’d sometimes make boxed macaroni and cheese dinners. This is when I first learned of his “thing” with all things pasta. I’m sure you all know that after you drain the elbow macaroni, you put it back in the pot and mix in the margarine, milk, and powdered cheese. My contribution to making better mac & cheese was to suggest putting the margarine in first: stir it up in the pasta, put the top back on the pot, and let the margarine melt completely in the hot noodles before adding the milk and powder. The Consort’s contribution was to insist that the powder needed to be added gently—grain by grain, almost—without stopping the stirring, or else you’d get clumps. Now, I was young, and in love, so I let him be the Cheese Powder Sprinkler; I never mentioned to him that we had made many a box of it at my house, too (my youngest sister loved that oh so American mac & cheese), and despite dumping it all in at once, we never got the dreaded clumps (or, if you did, you just stirred a bit more vigorously until they were broken up). Whatever floats your boat, babe.

This was a minor fixation, compared to other fixations a live-in boyfriend might have had (drinking til he puked every weekend, baseball on TV [sorry KathyR, I’m just not a baseball person], leaving the kitchen a mess, leather and chains … all that kind of stuff). So I let it be. I figured that in the fullness of time, he would work through his pasta sensitivity. And I am here to bear witness that just a few years ago, he mentioned, on his own, that you know, the powder does dissolve pretty well, even if you dump it all in at once.

But recently, when he was in the kitchen while I prepared pasta, I realized that his pasta sensitivity had not gone away, it had just been transferred. The water was at a rolling boil, so I dumped in the spaghetti.

“Eek!” he cried. “It’s going to stick!”

No it’s not, I told him. I return to my task, and, as the dry pasta softens in the water, Iuse the wooden spoon to press it further into the water, until it is all submerged and I can swirl it around a bit, to prevent that stickiness of which the Consort is so afeared.

“You just dump it all in at once?” he asked.

Yup. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I just can’t imagine how one could “sprinkle in” stiff strands of spaghetti!

Back to last night: it had been hot and sticky all day, so I figured today would be as well. I had a hankering for hard-boiled eggs, so I figured that cooking them in the pasta water would reduce the amount of boiling I had to do and pat two dogs at one time (as Trixie says; she doesn’t like the whole killing birds image).

It did mean I had to be a bit more delicate in my stirring. But no eggs cracked, the pasta was al dente, and I was able to turn the stove off after 10 minutes of one pot boiling, rather than two pots for 10 minutes … or one pot for 20 minutes. The eggs were a bit slippery from the pasta water, but other than that, success.

Now just brace yourself for the gasp.

P.S. In red foods of June news: Yesterday the Consort came back from our little neighborhood farmers’ market with strawberries, so I was able to make strawberry shortcake.

Although the cream I whipped tasted terrible (like metal poison; is that what bad cream tastes like when whipped?), so we had to use—gasp! (my gasp here)—some Reddi Whip we had left over from a sundae evening with Trixie’s friend and her family the other night. The girls were thrilled. I refused to use the Reddi Whip, so I put crème fraiche on mine instead. Very good.