Love Me Some Spaghetti: “Good Taste” by Michelle Holland

GOOD TASTE
by Michelle Holland

“This isn’t spaghetti,” my daughter says loudly to the waiter who is pouring the first taste of a fifty-dollar bottle of wine for our host.

And I have to agree. Take me back
to when I hadn’t discovered
sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil
and angel-hair pasta.
Hadn’t begun to refine my pork roast past,
or stay cool within my nodding circle
of low cholesterol friends.
I’ve learned the best restaurants,
sigh at the price of saffron,
accept only thin buttery lettuce.

Why should I shun the diner’s stout coffee
and mashed potatoes from a box,
and frequent instead the new coffee bar
with raspberry flavour and mocha and Java,
those little brittle Italian breads,
so refined?

My mom made sauce
red and sweet from cans of Contadina
and spread it out, ladled it out
on thick, straight spaghetti noodles.

Not one of us said, “Pasta.”

She made meatloaf and potatoes,
used garlic salt in plastic shakers,
served fluffy, white bread,
the kind that stuck in wads
to the roof of my mouth.

Big meals in big pots
served over the counter,
fat meatballs, mostly bread.
This was food, quick, filling,
not savored. Our due.

We held up our plates
for mom to fill once more
before we abandoned the table
for the urgent games of dusk,
hide and seek, and pick-up basketball
under the street light.

My daughter knows
the emperor has no clothes,
and for fifteen dollars an entree,
we should recognize the sauce.

The richness of our need,
the effortless nature of eating what could fill,
where is it?
I will listen to my daughter,
join her disdain for spaghetti
that is not spaghetti.
My life is a closed circle
traveling out,
the love of meatballs always on the periphery.

~ from Written With a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay and Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 1996)

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You want some now, don’t you? Well, here you go. Help yourself!

via Betty Crocker

 

This poem got me thinking about how complicated eating has become. We didn’t have “pasta” growing up, just good old spaghetti. Remember when it was either white bread or brown bread, instead of whole grain, multigrain, seven grain, cracked wheat, honey wheat, German dark wheat, oatmeal, fifteen grain, with or without seeds?

Just like designer clothes, there’s designer food. Cool people only eat eggs laid by liberated chickens, drink water bottled in France, and swear by “non-GMO,” “organic,” “grass-fed,” “sustainable,” “100% natural.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all on the side of healthy eating, being kind to the planet, and I know first hand about food allergies. I just wonder about people who go “gluten free” not from necessity, but fad. These days, it’s even hard to invite people over — everyone’s on some kind of “special diet”: lowfat, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, no artificial colors or preservatives, paleo, low carb, low calorie, low (or no) sugar. Sigh.

How I yearn for simpler times! I don’t want to worry about whether what I’m eating is politically correct, nor do I want to pay a fortune for three teensy but artfully arranged slices of tenderloin on a sleek white plate in a fancy restaurant. I don’t want to fall into the “food as status symbol” trap.

Just give me comfort food, plain and simple, preferably prepared by my mother. Her spaghetti rates pretty high on my list. She never used a recipe for her sauce, and it came out a little different each time. But it always tasted so good. After all, the best spice for any dish is love.

Speaking of spaghetti, I do believe it’s the great equalizer. Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, spaghetti always hits the spot and takes you right back. Just ask these folks:

Louis Armstrong tucks into a plate of spaghetti in Rome with his wife Lucille in 1949.

What’s the best spaghetti you’ve ever had? πŸ™‚

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The wonderful and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup at Check It Out. Noodle on over to view the complete menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Are you eating spaghetti this weekend? πŸ™‚

*

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” ~ Sophia Loren

Copyright Β© 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

47 thoughts on “Love Me Some Spaghetti: “Good Taste” by Michelle Holland

  1. That Sophia Loren quote is awesome. πŸ™‚ My favorite spaghetti: Cayman Brac island while honeymooning. We spent our days scuba diving, and I have never been so hungry! I still remember that mass of spaghetti, and how I cleaned my plate. YUM. Thank you, Jama… I really love food as art, but like everything, we seem to have taken it TOO FAR… when I pay for an expensive meal, I remind myself that I am paying, mostly, for the EXPERIENCE. Which means, slow dow and savor. Good advice for pretty much everything, really. xo

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    1. You’re so right — the high prices often reflect the ambience and overall experience. Love hearing about the honeymoon spaghetti in the Caymans!

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  2. My favorite spaghetti: spaghetti with butter and mentaiko (cod or pollack roe), served in a bustling, bright, immaculate little restaurant in J-town in Los Angeles about 20 years ago . . . I started thinking about it last week, and now am craving it big-time! Will have to buy a package of roe at H Mart tomorrow. And if you give a mouse spaghetti with butter and mentaiko, she’s going to want some coffee jello to go with it . . .

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    1. LOL. I admit I’ve never had spaghetti with mentaiko — the thought of anybody’s roe freaks me out in general (don’t even like it on sushi). I guess I’m too pedestrian in my tastes and not exotic/gourmet like you. Enjoy your spaghetti this weekend with some coffee jello!

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  3. My mother made her own sauce, too, and she gave me the recipe, yet it really never tastes the same, does it? I also try to make my own meatballs, & sometimes they’re great, other times, hmmm. I am happy to see all those pictures, Jama, what fun to see them yucking it up with the noodles! Thanks for the smile & the memories!

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    1. My mom didn’t really have a recipe — that’s what probably made it good — strictly improvisational. When I’m in the mood for meatballs, I use Bob Dylan’s recipe — still the tastiest I’ve ever eaten (I think the combo of different meats + parmesan + fresh parsley is the secret). Glad you enjoyed the old photos. Sophia speaks the truth. πŸ™‚

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  4. Now I am hungry! I do love those comfort foods I grew up with, and I try to eat healthy–sometimes those two desires are at cross purposes. I do love my fresh eggs (I wonder if my hens think they are liberated–anyway they have a pretty good life), but often laugh at the labels on food seeking to be a status symbol. The older I grow, the more I want to enjoy simple foods prepared with love and shared with good friends.

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  5. Ah, the meal that never fails–spezghetty! Love the star photos. Yes, my spaghetti turns out differently each time! That makes it homemade. Thanks, Jama, for the warmth of pasta and homemade goodness.

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  6. Have you seen Brooklyn? The spaghetti photos reminded me of the scene where the main character is learning to eat spaghetti.
    Hugh Jackman looks like he could eat spaghetti on a first date (because he wouldn’t make himself a mess). No mean feat!

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    1. I haven’t seen Brooklyn – looks like I need to sniff it out. πŸ™‚
      Hugh Jackman can eat spaghetti any way he likes — I’ll take him messy or neat.

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    1. Yes, I’ve heard of Audrey’s love for spaghetti. I keep meaning to try her recipe — I have the book written by her son and have been wanting to feature it for a couple of years . . . πŸ™‚

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  7. ☺ Our family didn’t eat much spaghetti when I was a kid, but when we did, it was as part of one of those food boxes for poor people. Even when I was a college student, if it wasn’t ramen, it was spaghetti, because that’s what I could afford… Nowadays, unless Himself makes it from scratch, I don’t eat spaghetti – or mashed potatoes, incidentally, at all. This might strike you as petty, to be so disdainful of my “poor person” food, but you know what, we have to take our victories as we find them. For now, it’s a little sign of success to eat what I want – which isn’t spaghetti (or mashed potatoes from a box) ever, ever, EVER again, so help me God. I know. I sound like Scarlet O’Hara “with God as my witness, I will never eat another box of spaghetti!” — but seriously, we had it like four times a week. Ugh.

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    1. Interesting how we all have our own reasons for eating or not eating certain foods. Similar to your story, Len refuses to eat peanut butter sandwiches — apparently because that’s all he ate every single day for lunch as a kid (with the occasional baloney sandwich thrown in). He’ll eat peanut butter with crackers, but not in a sandwich. Go figure.

      Ramen seems to be standard college fare — quick, easy, filling, and cheap. I didn’t eat enough to make me avoid it now, and when I do eat it, it’s a nice reminder of the old days.

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      1. My mother refused to eat grilled cheese sandwiches as an adult because, when she went to art college, that was her lunch every day. It was the only thing on the diner’s menu that was kosher. (She was a fun date; when she went on a Chinese food date she ordered rice and Coke.)

        I like pesto sauce (and hate tomato sauce unless it’s my own or similar, made from chopped up fresh tomatoes. I won’t eat canned tomato sauce on anything, including pizza.)

        My bottled water usually comes from Italy, not France. πŸ™‚

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  8. My family aren’t big spaghetti eaters, but sometimes it’s just the right thing! We made a vat of the stuff for a big family reunion a year or two ago and it was gone in minutes. My one spaghetti tip is that while I was living in Argentina somebody showed me how they grated a carrot into their spaghetti sauce.

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  9. Just the levity we needed at the end of a rough week, Jama. Grazie! Now I want spaghetti. I remember the first time I experienced Chef Boyardee from a can as a child at a friend’s house. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven! Clearly I had a sophisticated palate!

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  10. Casseroles, bowls of chopped iceberg lettuce for salad, lima beans (often scorched)…this is the stuff of my childhood food memories. But I do love that gallery of spaghetti eaters!

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  11. Yes! Now I’m feeling hungry… In Haiti, people eat spaghetti for breakfast, and it always has chopped up hotdogs in it. True story. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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  12. Oh, my! Oh, my! Oh, my! All those photos! And the poem that’s a time-machine back to my 50s childhood! And my longing for a full bowl of spaghetti and not the few strands that go into a “recommended serving size: 2 oz. uncooked,” which, at 43 grams of carbs is already outside my dietary limit of 30 grams.

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  13. I remember one of my first trips to the USA as a child and staring in shock at the grocery store shelves – 32 different varieties of cereal! 15 different kinds of ketuchup! And the chip shelves, oh my word! I grew up in a rich and developed nation, but oh my goodness, when it comes to variety, I’ve never seen anything quite like an American grocery store. Choice is a very good thing, but sometimes too much choice can just add to life’s anxieties! πŸ˜‰

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    1. I agree. I think there’s too much choice. Making a decision is not only time consuming but daunting sometimes. And if you’re someone who reads labels because of food allergies, etc., it takes forever to sift through all the choices.

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  14. My childhood memories of eating spaghetti come with mixed emotions. While I loved eating my mom’s recipe, it was always tainted with the thought of who had to do the dishes afterwards. I’m the youngest of 10 kids and when mom made spaghetti there were A LOT of dishes. If it was your night for dishes, you could count on a long time in the kitchen after dinner. Thanks for the yummy post, Jama. =)

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  15. The best spaghetti I have ever had was with my Papa’s crab sauce! Yum! I am first generation Italian/American, and my dad made fresh noodles the way he learned in Italy. Such a sweet delectable sauce those crabs made. Another favorite of mine is Putanesca sauce with olives anchovies and hot pepper flakes. I loved the blog, especially Sophia. spaghetti has definitely kept her young!

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    1. You’ve really got me drooling, Joanne. Fresh homemade noodles and a special crab sauce. How lucky you were to grow up with such fine cuisine. πŸ™‚

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  16. I love the poem. It makes me want to eat spaghetti, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese. those comfort foods I remember as a child. I have been blanking on what to cook recently, feeling it’s a chore. Maybe it’s because I really try to create tasteful and nutritious meals and i keep searching for new ideas! Back to basics might just be the answer. Thanks for the fun celebrity photos!

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    1. Thinking up what to cook seems more work sometimes than actually doing it. Falling back on classic comfort foods is a good solution. πŸ™‚

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