Making Pasta and Reading “The Help”

Yesterday, a few different people asked me what I did today, and I told each of them the three things I did: finished a book, made homemade pasta, and cooked dinner. I was busy from the moment I woke to up to the moment I went to bed, but I only did three, simple tasks. My friends were unimpressed, but yesterday was one of those days where saying what I had been doing didn’t really do justice to what I accomplished.

My biggest accomplishment was finishing “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I made the decision yesterday morning that I would not fall asleep last night until I finished it, and so I powered through three hundred pages of passive-aggressive segregationalism. The reason I wanted to finish so badly is because “The Help” is one of those books that you don’t put down, that you stay up late into the night reading and then put in your backpack in the morning so you can read it in your spare time. You dog-ear your page but you don’t need to because you remember exactly what was happening when you stopped reading. My mom and I had book club-esque discussions about the plot both as I was half-way through it and after I finished it. The bottom line is that I recommend it; the book is good. It doesn’t strike me as too profound, but I think it has a larger impact on older readers, like my mom, who were alive in 1964 for the Civil Rights Movements. The book does give some startling detail on the shadowy nature of retribution that blacks were afraid back then. Many maids wouldn’t help write the book because they were afraid of their employer’s actions if they were to find out, but it wasn’t like the employer was going to beat them, it was worse than that. The employer would have her husband and his goons burn down their house, or beat up their son, then the wife would fire the help and call all her friends not to hire her so she can’t get a job anywhere in town. If the white employer was lending the maid money, for an informal loan for college or a car, then the employer would demand all the money immediately and confiscate the car or cut the education if the maid misbehaved. Overall, I recommend the book, but it isn’t one that you will remember fifty years from now.

20110714-104515.jpgAnother time vacuum that I fell into yesterday was making pasta. I really enjoy the process, I do, but it can be a little frustrating. I doubled the recipe yesterday, but I felt like I ended up with the same amount of pasta. I think I need to cut the noodles in half because the noodles I had were longer, but the amount of them was the same as when I used half the ingredients. Regardless, the process is really fun, and takes me back a few centuries like other foodmaking cannot. First you combine the ingredients, and the recipe is probably the simplest recip20110714-104530.jpge I have ever made. Honestly. Then you knead the dough. Then you let it rest for twenty minutes. Then you divide it into four (or eight if you doubled the recipe) pieces and roll them out. You let them sit for fifteen minutes so they get tough and firm like tanning leather. Then you roll them back up, into a little blunt and start cutting them. You cut from one horizontal end to the other, about an inch of width each. You then unravel these little dough-circles and drape them onto a baking sheet where they dry. Dried, they will last four days. Free20110714-104524.jpgze them and they can last for three months. 20110714-104538.jpgOr, boil them later that day and have delicious pasta. The difference between homemade and store-bought pasta is unbelievable, it’s like the difference between watching the Super Bowl on TV or being there in person. Watching it on TV is fine, it can be an awesome experience, but it is nothing like being there. They’re incomparable. Once you go the Super Bowl, you’re never settling for watching it on TV again. Or at least you won’t be satisfied if you do.20110714-104544.jpg

I made dinner last night because my dad is out-of-town and my mom never gets home until around six, and so it works out best for the whole family if I cook. I tried to do a recipe that I invented a few weeks prior that turned out great, but I messed it up this time. The recipe is predicated on two things: fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. We didn’t have fresh tomatoes, and that’s when I should have known to stop. I bought some at the store, but those don’t taste the same. The recipe is a basic tomato and basil sauce, except that I seed the tomatoes and use all garden ingredients. It works out great. But not only did I have the wrong tomatoes, but I cooked them for too long. The sauce looked wilted and murky dark when I served it. It still tasted good, but poured on my beautiful noodles it was like Princess Diana wearing jewelry from H.E.B. Regardless, now I have the recipe down for sure, and will make it right next time. Plus, I have some pretty good dinner plans for tonight.

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Making Pasta and Reading “The Help”

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