For most of my life, I didn’t get why so many women’s magazines featured recipes to be made in 10 minutes or advice on how to cook for the week. Then I had a baby, duh. Gone are the hours of looking up recipes in vintage magazines and browsing dreamily through glossy art cookbooks. Lately my husband and I have been subsisting on cheese sandwiches and ordering the same thing from takeout menus like robots. When we do finally get to the hour of the night when the baby is asleep, we look at each other—dog-tired and famished—and say one word: spaghetti!
Spaghetti is my favourite pasta form. Unlike nibs of penne or rigatoni, it doesn’t need to be chased around the plate and speared. Instead it’s a lovely sweeping dance of a meal, twirling and coaxing, until a good mouthful appears on the end of the fork. (It’s a kind of magic, like spinning cotton candy, except better for you.)
My spaghetti memories are dear. Carb-loading reheated spaghetti for breakfast before a swim meet was a ritual I performed religiously. Making a bowl full of plain noodles for friends to plunge their hands into for my annual haunted house was another standby. I vividly recall one night in 1995, in the Ottawa kitchen of a dearest now-departed friend, graduating from jarred sauce to homemade (with olives, Dijon and red peppers).
Spaghetti as a motif is satisfying in the same way: noodles, doodles, fringes and yarns all deliver an organic tactile satisfaction. Like hair or grasses, there is a sensuality to loose strands of soft fibre. Whenever I worry about white-flour pasta’s bad rep, which generated the phrase “gluten-glutton,” I remember an unremarkable biography of Ingrid Bergman I once found on the curb, in which she describes eating pasta on a movie set, falling in love and somehow losing weight. Then there’s the greatest thing Sophia Loren never said: “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” Spaghetti is an immortal coil: filling, slurping, alive and hot.