One of my coworkers went out for a casual lunch on Tuesday and had a mediocre bowl of pasta. I could not have been more furious. Yet another sharp hunger pang shot through my stomach as I considered the breakfast smoothie that was gulped down six hours ago as I held my nose. I believe it consisted primarily of tree bark and toothbrush bristles (excellent sources of fiber!). It was, decidedly not as delicious as pasta.
I have always had a complicated relationship with diets, both fad and FDA recommended. I have been dieting off and on from the age of eight and throughout high school and I swore that I would never again participate in these obsessive, degrading, and sometimes unhealthy rituals once I moved out of my parents house.
Alas, the best laid plans tend to…not work out (something about mice, not sure). In 2012 I found myself taking a nutrition class as part of my MLA in Gastronomy (sorry, I paid $50,000 for this degree, I’m going to work it in wherever possible) and becoming hopelessly obsessed with what I was eating again. It was distracting, not particularly fun, and perhaps a part of a mild nervous breakdown. I’m not sure if I felt any more invigorated or less chronically depressed but god damn it, I looked hot.
For better or worse, as it turns out, this was a completely unsustainable phase and after about a year I returned to a more…varied diet. It’s not that I ballooned up or anything, I’m just not at the point where I can rock scandalously short dresses and cause minor traffic disturbances again.
As a restaurateur this works out spectacularly for me seeming as tasting, judging, and critically considering delicious over the top rich foods is a part of my job description. As a gastronome, I just love food, and drink, or really anything that is put on a plate and drizzled with a gastrique. Even so, I make occasional concerted attempts at putting down the butter poached langoustine rolled in foie gras dust and garnished with a crispy pork fat chip. This usually lasts until I am offered the next over the top dish or until I accidentally make a smoothie the size of my head.
However, every explorer, no matter how adventurous, has a place that even they dare not go. A cave so dark and menacing that they are certain it will eat them alive. For me, that place is pasta. Nutritionally speaking, pasta is a bowl full of sugar rolled in fat (and perhaps garnished with a sprig of basil, for color). So, if we plug those numbers into a standard culinary equation we get:
(fat x carbohydrates)+salt = delicious
Given these results, I am completely convinced that if I were to order really any pasta I would come to eight months later weighing 300lbs in the dumpster of an Olive Garden while the police try to find a crane to lift me out, for the third time that month.
These are the thoughts that flashed through my mind as I considered how a normal, fit, decent member of society could go out, eat a bowl of pasta for lunch, and then continue on with their life as if it were no big deal.
After a few moments, I realized that I was staring at my coworker with a mix of jealousy, confusion, and longing that likely indicated I was seconds away from jumping the counter and mauling their face, or baking them into a pie. It was time to replenish my blood sugar levels and go eat a salad at the place across the street. Salads are surprisingly satisfying when you are considering how unjust life can be. Fresh romaine has an excellent crunching noise when you stab it angrily with a fork and it also ensures that the bartender will be too frightened of you to try and strike up small talk about the unusually cold spring weather.
As I chewed on yet another piece of mildly satiating lightly dressed lettuce I considered fettuccine, tagliatelle, ditalini, and all of the other exciting pasta shapes that I could be shoving greedily into my mouth at that moment. However enticing these may be, I realized that sometimes, very occasionally, a few moments of bliss are not worth waving goodbye to those oh so short summer short shorts that I have been eyeing. Reluctantly, I let the thought of going home and making a killer spaghetti a la carbonara slip away. Maybe one day I could learn to eat pasta responsibly; until then I turned my thoughts to more pressing matters, like if the chef was going to make an order of that smoked pork shoulder in bacon broth for us to try tonight and what kind of salad I should stab tomorrow.
Spaghetti Squash Ragout
1 whole spaghetti squash
1 ½ cups of broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic
1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup parmesan
1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2) Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthways and place on baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the strands of the spaghetti squash pull apart easily. Set aside to cool.
3) While spaghetti squash is cooling, blanch the broccoli and the peeled and diced carrots in boiling salted water for five minutes. RInse under cold water to stop cooking.
4) Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauce pan and add chopped onion and diced zucchini. Cook until tender then add chopped garlic and cook for 30 seconds more taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan along with the broccoli and carrots. Add the salt and cracked pepper to taste. Allow to simmer on low while preparing the squash.
5) Once the squash is cool shred it by dragging a fork from the top to the bottom until all strands are separated.
6) To assemble, place a pile of spaghetti squash in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Place a generous scoop of the tomato sauce on top. Garnish with chopped basil and parmesan cheese.