In homage to the worst-best foods we love, but hate to admit to, every now and then we’ll get all drippy on our drippiest, nastiest, most chemical-laden, sorry/not sorry food addictions, and the fetishistic ways we like to eat them. Not highbrow. Lowbrow. (Sweet and low, that is.)
The pinnacle of all comfort meals by the light of my apartment twinkle lights is spaghetti. Feeling anxious or lonely, I turn to spaghetti. Phone hasn’t rung in a week and my man don’t love me no more: spaghetti. Though spaghetti is not only relied upon in my house when times are tough. Just the opposite. Spaghetti can indicate triumphal jubilee and even ceremony. Alone on the couch with a bottle of cheap white; this is life lived large.
In these mad, modern days of carbohydrate-eschewers, dietary-needs inventors, caveman diet fanatics, and marathon-as-hobbists, spaghetti as a food group gets constantly and unjustly maligned like the women of Salem.
Spaghetti is a food group. Especially when bathed in a bounteous rapids of cheap spaghetti sauce, I can live on a single box plus a single jar for a week. But only if I'm doing it wrong.
What spaghetti isn't:
Spaghetti is not some freshly extruded “oo” flour tawdriness that gets twirled around colossal, stainless steel imported Italian twines before being “plated” on a showy white bowl and then "served" next to a spoon with divot deep and wide enough to swim in, allowing for the execution of stylish bite-twisting without fear of carnage. Not spaghetti.
Spaghetti isn't cloaked in anything other than spaghetti sauce. Not lemon butter, fish stock, white wine, cream or of all things, vodka. Spaghetti doesn't go next to sea-slickened shrimp, next to shriveled and baggy, limpid day-after helium balloon cherry tomatoes; next to squash or pumpkin or any other “autumn veg”. Spaghetti next to anything other than balls of meat (preferably pattied with a “meatloaf mix” of beef, pork and veal; fluffy, baby flesh pink when raw, slightly grey when cooked) is sad desecration.
But truly, even meatballs are supercilious when it comes to the glory of mainlining strips of pure white flour carbohydrate cloaked in nature's finest fruit that's been pulverized to a slick paste, heavy with preposterous doses of sugar and sodium.
Spaghetti comes out of a box. A green box, possibly a blue box, but not from any expensive-to-the-touch, craft-colored satchel tied with raffia. It's not imported. It should be Creamette, if at all possible, with a whole jar of spaghetti sauce as its companion. Neither item should cost much more than $3 and some change.
If by now you’re still not duly convinced as to what spaghetti is, think back to what your good, reliable, resourceful, and loving mother made for you honestly and correctly each and every week or perhaps more. The one she unflaggingly lined her pantries with so that her babies would never, ever go hungry. You know. Spaghetti.
How to eat spaghetti:
Alone. In uniform. Or rather, lack thereof. Because, let me cut to the chase in case you haven’t figured it out by now. I'm going to eat this entire fucking box of spaghetti. I'm going to boil it in a pot of water to the exact specifications on the box, not al dente, but also not mushy. I'll set a timer. Meanwhile I'll change into my “eating dress.” (Ladies, do not play like you don’t have an eating dress.) At the very least, something with very old and loose elastic; elastic that has long since given up on its original ambitions. Law degree-having elastic that's currently living in its mom's basement. I shouldn’t have to say it’s entirely acceptable to go without pants here. But keep I'll keep the shirt, because spillage is inevitable and hot spaghetti sauce burns like cigarette holes through a polyester housecoat when slaked on tender naked flesh. Believe me, I know of what I speak.
Gear thusly gathered, I'll simmer the jar of spaghetti sauce (this is not a microwaving maneuver — be a little civilized, won’t you?) in a midsize sauce pot, large enough to accept the entire contents of the spaghetti box once cooked. I'll drain. I'll dump all the carbohydrate straight away to meet hot sauce. The old Italian grandmas were right about certain things: DO NOT RINSE. You need starch for maximum sauce clingage. STARCH IS A GOOD AND NOBLE THING.
If I happen to have any cheap, pre-shredded, industrial-made Wisconsin Parmesan clanging around the dank recesses of the fridge, I'll employ it, though this is no mandatory step. But if I do, there are no half measures here. Great handfuls. Right into the pan. Heart-stopping quantities of salt and pepper are non-negotiable. Now, carefully, gingerly, because the pan is hot as a car hood in July, I'll wrap it in some kind of dish towel. A bath towel is not out of the question. Transport to sofa. Tables and chairs are trite here. Place in lap.
Now, this can be an all-night ordeal, like marathon sex. Have a little; have a lot. Take a break. Go back to the pot. There’s always appetite for a little more. If I'm doing it properly my stomach should distend gradually, from four months with child to six, from kwashiorkor to Falstaff. It should be a bit alarming to behold. Am I, in fact, pregnant? No, couldn’t be...
The best part: By now utterly pantsless, already cushioned upon soft surface, all there's left to do is fold fingers upon the great, wide expanse of my waistline, and drift softly into the unparalleled sleep of the pasta mommy.
I want this for my death row meal. And then, marathon sex. In that order. (OK, maybe not marathon. My tummy's full. Leamme alone, will ya?)