I’m not going to ask where the time went. That’s what everyone says, halfway through summer, after the fireworks and before back-to-school, when we’re finally settled into the heat and humidity, when our arms are bronzed and our long-daylight days have begun to seem commonplace, when we’re looking at the calendar and saying, July 20? July 20! More than halfway through 2010? I am just getting used to it not being 2009! and we think of all the things we still want to do and we think of all the people we want to do them with, and our hearts start to race a little bit. OK, hang on.
How about instead of rushing ahead we just stop, right here and now, and take a look at this day, this July 20, this Tuesday we have and will never get again, and appreciate what’s brought us here?
I’ll start. With chocolate babka.
I don’t remember the first time I ate a strawberry. Do you?
I wonder if I liked it right away or if it took some time. I wonder if it was like tomatoes, where at first I hated the texture, and then I had some sliced on pizza and didn’t hate them, and soon started to want them (on pizza, on sandwiches, growing more plants every year). I kind of feel like I always liked strawberries, but who knows? I mean, some things take time to warm up to.
For example, I do remember the first time I soaked flour, and it was no strawberry. Remember that bittersweet soaked whole grain bread experience, the one where I was never quite sure if I’d done it right and the yeast plus my inexperience added up to ho-hum? I could have given up right then. I could have said no more soaking! It’s not easy to like! But then again, where would that attitude get me? I’ll tell you where: to a world without tomatoes, cherries, cheese, kefir, eggs, exercise and, heck, even some of my favorite people.
So I persevered. And go figure! I think I’m finally getting it.
If you’re like me, the thought of making homemade pasta is right up there with the thought of knitting your own clothes or building your own car: Sure, theoretically, it’s good. Other people might try it, and when they do, you might think it’s a little cool. But let’s be honest, it’s unnecessary, over-involved, time-consuming and, mostly, way out of your league. Besides, that’s why there are shopping malls! And car dealerships! And hello? Grocery stores with ready-made pasta you only need to boil. Listen, I know.
At first glance, making homemade pasta seems daunting. The very mention of it sends some of us out to buy the latest pasta maker or KitchenAid attachment or, in an even more likely scenario, reaching way back in the cupboards, where our existing pasta maker or attachment has been hiding. We know making pasta takes time, and it might be messy. I know that. Last weekend, I did it anyway.
And when I did, I learned something: when you make it from scratch, the results will be worth it.
I come from a long line of women who can cook: My great grandma, I’m told, made legendary pasta. My grandma rolled her own cannoli shells. My mom, a woman who loves to say, Oh, it’s so simple (particularly when her only daughter asks for clarification on some new recipe trick), has a vast cooking repertoire that ranges from bakery-worthy apple strudel to hot chicken curry just the way my dad likes it.
And as with a lot of things in life, I feel there are different ways to approach this kind of heritage: Embrace it. Or resent it.
I’ll let you guess which way I tended towards for most of my childhood and only say this: it’s amazing how we can turn blessings into curses, how we can choose to be intimidated by that which can help us grow. You may call it perfectionism; I call it ugly.
It’s like, say, when you have the opportunity to start working from home: This is such an obvious good (especially as it is the thing—the very thing—you have wanted and worked towards for years!), yet you can let yourself see it as a bad (citing all the potential problems/risks, from insurance to pay to the way it feels to step into the Unknown).
That same vice that makes you see the negatives in one situation will make you see the problems in others. But I’ve been thinking. Maybe the parallel works both ways? Maybe by learning to embrace a heritage of good home cooks, for example, you step towards learning to embrace everything else. What do you think?
I’m starting with this meat sauce.