I was missing again last week. I fear that until my darling husband’s health problems are resolved, the possibility exists that I’ll be off somewhere doing something I’d rather not be doing when I should be writing my weekly entry.
But I shall persevere. Just because my writing tasks are suffering doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about food. Quite the opposite, in fact. Since we have become more or less homebound over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about food more than ever. We eat at home for every meal, and I am constantly trying to come up with a breakfast/lunch/dinner that is interesting, wholesome, and full of the right kind of calories.
Handily, March is Noodle Month. Therefore, allow me to sing the praises of noodles, possibly the most versatile food ever invented. Since most varieties of noodles are made of the same thing - wheat - one would think that the shape of the noodle wouldn’t make that much difference in the taste. But if one thought that, one would be wrong. Elbow macaroni just tastes different from fusilli, or lasagna, or udon. Each shape has a different mouth feel, and relates in its own unique way to whatever sauce or topping you pair with it.
My Ozark foremothers made their own noodles. They were thick and fat and dumpling-like (the noodles, not the foremothers), and were boiled with chicken or beef for a mouthwatering soup, or cooked with canned tomatoes or in a stew. If your foremothers were Jewish, you were blessed to grow up with kugels, sweet and savory. Hungarians have their goulash, Russians their stroganoff, and Asians their noodle dishes by the thousands, boiled, steamed, and fried. And if you’re Italian, fuggedaboutit!
I could make a noodle dish every day for years and never repeat myself. Tonight we’re having a simple and easy spaghetti salad. I’m sure everyone has eaten pasta salad made with corkscrew or bow tie noodles, but it just ain’t the same as a homemade spaghetti salad. The first time I ever ate a spaghetti salad was in 1974. Don and I were in graduate school, and still dating. We were invited to lunch at the home of a friend, and she served a spaghetti salad and warm, crusty, Italian bread, along with a nice red wine. I have been throwing together spaghetti salads ever since.
I generally use whatever I have at hand for my salad, but it usually includes spaghetti - freshly boiled and rinsed in cold water, chopped tomatoes (I like to use red and yellow tomatoes, just because it looks nice), cucumber, chopped sweet onion, lettuce (of whatever variety I have in the house, though Don likes iceberg or Romaine, since they’re crunchy). I like cubed avocado, celery, chunked or grated cheese, sunflower kernels, if I have them. I like bacon bits and chunks of wieners, too. We’re vegetarians, so we use the soy kind, but if you want to use the real kind, who’s going to judge you?
I usually dress my salad with nothing more fancy than a couple of tablespoons of mayo, though we like Italian dressings, and I’m partial to raspberry vinaigrette or an Oriental sesame. Whatever dressing you use, however, don’t get carried away. There shouldn’t be dressing pooled in the bottom of the bowl. Just coat those lovely noodles.
And by the way, the crusty bread and red wine is pretty important, too.