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I Don’t Know Pasta

October 14, 2009 Leave a comment

pastaencyclop

The lead article in the food section of today’s NYT has the aggressive title, “So You Think You Know Pasta.” There are a lot of subjects that I like to think I know a little bit about, but it turns out that pasta isn’t one of them. I didn’t know pasta existed when I was young. I knew about spaghetti. I didn’t eat it, but I knew about it. And then I knew there was fettucini alfredo. My father would order a half portion as an appetizer at a nearby restaurant. And I suppose I knew about lasagna, though I don’t think I understood that underneath the top layer of cheese was some sort of noodle. Oh, speaking of noodles, I knew about the noodles in Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Loved them. Pasta? Nope.

That was then. This is now. And now, of course, I know more. Ziti. Penne. Rotini. Farfalle. Rotelle. Bucatini. Tortellini. Tortelloni. Vermicelli. Capellini. Yup. Know ’em all. Still, I’m not the pasta maven, so I figured the article’s headline must be speaking to someone else. And I knew for sure that it was once I read the opening words: “Oretta Zanini de Vita.” I sure hadn’t heard of any of them. They sound good though. I was going to tell Gail we should try some oretta, or maybe the zanini. The top half of the page has a large color picture of various pastas, so I was wondering if the oretta was pictured.

Then came a comma, suggesting I had parsed the partial sentence incorrectly, followed by a few more words confirming that indeed I had. Alas. The full first sentence of the article reads as follows: “ORETTA ZANINI DE VITA, the pre-eminent Italian food historian, seems to have a tool for every pasta: a centuries-old ravioli cutter, a wooden stamp that mints pasta like coins, a chitarra for creating thick strands of tagliatelle.”

So I don’t get to eat oretta or zanini after all. Oh well. It would have helped if those first four words weren’t all in upper case. Seeing Oreta Zanini De Vita might have saved me from my foolish error. Then again, maybe I should have been familiar with her already, through her Encyclopedia of Pasta. I wonder if we own it.

Categories: Books, Food, Newspapers

Metropolitan Diary

October 14, 2009 Leave a comment

2001

I love the NYT Metropolitan Diary column, which appears on Mondays in the New York Region section. (This puts it in the back pages of the first section of the national edition, a page or two before the editorials.) This is the feature in which people write in with cute little tales of something that happened on the bus, or in the train station, or wherever. Dog stories, kid stories, tourist stories, overheard cell phone conversation stories. Heartwarming stories all, the sort that make you glad to be human. (Except when the writer has to end the story with the worst of all phrases, “Only in New York.” Sigh. I mean really. That’s so beside the point. And anyway, let us be the judges. And by the way, if you’ve never lived outside New York, how would you even know? What kinds of lives do you think the rest of us live? And I’m a New Yorker, mind you, but I have no patience for that chauvinism.)

But let me not get distracted. Here’s what I was going to say. Every so often, when I get to the end of a diary entry, there’s a surprise in store. It’s written by someone famous. Or at least someone well known in his or her field, whose name I happen to recognize. Someone who, despite fame, has taken the trouble to send in his or her own cute little story. I love them.

Take this week for instance. As I often do, I looked online for the diary just after 9:00 Sunday night. No waiting to bring in the paper in the morning. So there I was, reading this week’s diary, which has five entries, and when I got to the end of the fourth one, the author’s name leapt out at me. Keir Dullea! Is that cool or what?

You don’t know Keir Dullea? Well, okay, so maybe you have to be a certain age, or a film buff. A film buff I’m not, but I am that certain age, and though I was never too excited about 2001: A Space Odyssey, I did see it during its initial release in the theaters in 1968, and I’ve watched bits of it on TV. The scene I always think of first is the one on the spaceship as HAL (the computer) and Bowman (the astronaut played by Dullea) go at it. No doubt Dullea wishes he were known for more than that one role, but it’s that role that makes his name instantly recognizable to so many of us. And now, thanks to his contribution to Metropolitan Diary, I know a little more about him.

Categories: Movies, Newspapers

Off Duty

October 14, 2009 Leave a comment

santamaria milan

I seem not to have written anything for a week now. Sorry about that. Maybe I was feeling self-conscious after the appearance of an article last Thursday in the university’s weekly newspaper (now on-line only) about my blog, lying low until the one-time visitors stop coming. (Are you gone yet? For others, see here if you must.)

But beyond that, I allowed myself last week to get absorbed yet again in a Lee Child thriller. This time it was his second Jack Reacher novel, Die Trying, from 1998. And then there were the President’s Cup golf matches to watch, last Thursday through Sunday. And above all, travel planning, with our departure just 12 days away. First there were the flights, then the hotels. Then revising the hotel dates by two days. Then revising them back a day. Then trains. Now tour and museum reservations.

Our timing in Florence isn’t the best, arriving on a Saturday afternoon and leaving on a Tuesday just after noon, with the Uffizi closed on Mondays. We’ll have our work cut out for us that Sunday. We could have left Tuesday night on an overnight train to Paris, but then we’d be boarding when we should be having dinner to celebrate Gail’s birthday. So instead, we’ll head up to Milan in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day there before boarding an 11:35 PM train to Paris. This will give us time, if all goes to plan, to see The Last Supper and then go out for the birthday dinner.

More on all this later. Perhaps.

Categories: Life, Travel