Most of us remember Mom’s stern dinner-table warning of
“Don’t play with your food, or else…!!”
as we sat listlessly by our dinner plate, either making faces at, or making faces out of, the food that should have been in our little stomachs a long time ago…
Funny how things change, and change so radically! Today, I crave Mom’s cooking at almost every meal I sit down to eat, and look for surrogates closer at hand in friends’ mom’s dinner invitations and ‘home-style’ restaurants that are making a killing precisely because of suckers like me drenched in this unshakeable nostalgia…
On a different non-nostalgic note, ‘playing with food’ is so much a part of our lives today! Prodding a gooey brownie into shape, pricking a cake to see of it’s done, ‘sprinkling’ steamed rice to fluff it, battering down a steak, criss-crossing brinjal roundels before deep frying, zig-zagging sauce on a dinner plate or on an ice-cream sundae to make a pretty presentation, and so on…
Most traditional chefs, from the sheesh kebab makers of Egypt, to the Nonnas of Italian kitchens to our very own ‘Khansamas’ or ‘Bawarchis’ will tell you that the more you touch and interact with food, the more you put your love into it, and therefore the tastier it gets. Whether this tops western concepts of minimal kneading, sous-vide cooking etc. is not a debate I want to get into here, but I for one enjoy my play-time in the kitchen. And my favourite ‘game’ right now is making fresh pasta from scratch!
The very idea of getting down-n-dirty with flour, watching the egg yolk give and spread its sunshiny glory, kneading with fingers, palms, knuckles, heels of the hand and then throwing the dough with a loud ‘splat!’ on the kitchen counter is such a wonderful release of energy, and yet such a creative outlet. And if you have your partner, like I had Teddy every step of the way, joining in the fun and bonding with you over food in the kitchen, it is easily one of the best ideas for a romantic date!
Then comes the caring bit… Taking the dough out of its sleep, teasing and rolling it out into sheets, sprinkling flour on them, then passing them repeatedly through the pasta rollers to gradually thin them to desired consistency, and finally roller-cutting them into fettuccine or tagliatelle or spaghetti.
A few minutes of drying, a few more minutes in salted boiling water, and there it is… your labour of love ready to be eaten with your favourite vegie, meat, red or white sauce, or just tossed in olive oil with a couple of fresh herbs, a dash of seasoning and generous shavings of cheese!
Plate-licker’s Wisdom: Few things in life afford as much satisfaction as fresh home-made, hand-made pasta… the high you get from the energy spent, the creativity you put in and the time spent interacting with your food has no equal!