One thing you must remember is that when I left Wilkes-Barre to go off to nursing school, I was unexposed to the American melting pot. Sure I read things – the Times-Leader Evening News, Time magazine, Reader’s Digest and everything in the town library – but that doesn’t give you a sense of the normal everyday things that other people know about that were not likely to be the compelling subject of a magazine article. (I Am Joe’s Chinese Takeout)
So there I was in northern New Jersey, with it’s highways and litter blowing around and enormous discount departmental stores and people who were from other ethnicity besides Slavic or Welsh. One day, a fellow student invited me along on a shopping trip with her mother to go buy a winter coat. I went into that back-street warehouse as unsophisticated 19 year old in a loden green stadium coat and came out an underaged spectacle in a 3/4 length faux Persian lamb*.
We stopped in at her aunt’s on the way back to the dorm and the two ladies whipped up a quick lunch of breaded chicken drumsticks, rotini in red sauce and green beans. Chicken in the middle of the day! Rotini as a side dish! Did I mention they were an Italian-American family**? Where are your baloney sandwiches? Where are your pierogis? And ever since then, a side dish of rotini served with a spare amount of plain red sauce already mixed in has been to me the absolute height of clever food pairings and hostessing that looks effortless.
Sami never like rotini – he’s strictly an elbow macaroni and No.8 Spaghetti man. No other pasta will do for him. Rotini was too thick, too chewy, took too long to cook, held too much sauce, would only surrender one at a time to his fork – his list of complaints about it were almost endless. I stopped serving it to him but I keep it around when I want something marvelous to eat. Rotini in plain red sauce, just for me.
And that is the point of this whole story – nothing is the same as it used to be. Not even Rotini.
When the weather turned crisp this week, I made some cabbage soup*** and I looked through my pasta cupboard hoping to find thick egg noodles. There were no noodles of any kind to be found but I did come across a box of rotini. Suspiciously thin rotini. Rotini that took only 7 minutes to cook. They can’t kid me – I know that rotini used to be stumpy and thick and took at least 11 minutes to cook to al dente. This was lean rotini – almost the width of fusili. Certainly not the rotini of my dreams.
What is happening in the world? Can’t they leave anything alone? At least I have my memories.
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* It was a Lassie brand coat.
**Later on, the same girl would invite me to those as-seen-on-tv riotous, 5 hour long Italian Family Sunday Dinners but nothing could astonish me as much as that impromptu lunch did.
***Which I would match against a 5 hour Italian family Sunday dinner any day of the week.