Friday, January 14, 2011

In memory of memories...

" the CORNERS of my mind....." Memories are kind of like cleaning out a closet; you've finally think you've gotten everything out and vacuumed the rug, then go to dust the high shelf in there and you hear a rattle and your Oreck hand vac makes a sound like a cat coughing up not just a hairball, but an entire kitten. There, stuck to the end of the wand, is a long forgotten item covered in dust - it could be anything, junk, garbage, hopefully not mummified, but something you forgot, or maybe didn't even know existed. Who knew?

We bought my gramma's house when she decided to move into my parent's home, and over the years have done some necessary remodeling whenever we: A. have some extra money; B. something breaks catastrophically; or C; when I can no longer stand the mere THOUGHT of living in a house with 2" long green shag carpet, a kitchen with exactly 5-1/2 feet of counter space, or ONE bathroom. OK, my need for more than one bathroom is apparently not as strong as my husbands lack of desire to rip the house asunder to add another...someday I SWEAR I will have a bathroom I can call my own, where the toilet seat is never sullied by errant droplets, the paint does not peel from emissions so foul that meters at the DEQ 10 miles away dance wildly to their operator's bewilderment, and where the ONLY curly hairs I see are the ones I apply mascara to around my eyes, NOT the ones stuck on my moisturizing body bar.

After adding on a beautiful and spacious kitchen/dining room, then gutting the former "kitchen"/laundry room, we had to rip out a linen closet to put in a door for the new and improved laundry "salon" (makes it sound like a lot more fun that the repository for dirty chonies and giant/empty dog food bags it really is). As we removed the shelves that were built in to the closet, a photograph that had been on an upper shelf made it's presence known, and I was looking at my Aunt Kathy and her first husband, Larry the musician, smiling at me with their young and shiny faces. I remember little about the day they got married, just that the very small reception was at my parents house, and that she wanted lilacs for her flowers since they were in season and she loved them.

That picture brought back a lot of she loved dogs so much she had 4 mutts at once, most of them rescued dogs, all with their little quirks, her "big hair" wigs and glamorous outfits either made on her sewing machine or gleaned expertly from the tons of dreck at second hand stores, which she always wore anytime she left the family compound, along with makeup perfectly applied. Then there was the weird food she ate, the wheat grass kick, and her laugh - I collect laughs in my memory, and I think that is one reason I am such a goof....I LOVE to hear people laugh, and some are just unforgettable. She divorced Larry and remarried - to a man who treated her like the queen she wanted to be, and whom she left a widower when she died too early at age 50 due to health issues - I hope I see her again someday. I'm also keeping the picture - Gramma doesn't need it, her 97 year old memory is better than mine for cryin' out loud.

So in honor of Aunt Kathy, I thought I would pick a recipe that she would have appreciated - simple, good ingredients, and because she went abroad for a spell, a little European. And as I found this in the newspaper years ago and didn't pay a dime for it - I know she would approve.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I like to think of this as breakfast food - shoot, put eggs, bacon and cheese together and you have an omelet or quiche....this just has noodles in place of the toast, and garlic and pepper to wake you up instead of coffee! And everyone has a glass of wine for breakfast.....right?

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
3-4 oz. pancetta (I usually just use bacon - your call), diced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed with the blade of a knife
3/4 C. white wine (remember to use stuff you like to drink)
2 eggs
1 C. freshly grated parmesan or similar cheese
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped

Bring 4-5 quarts water to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of salt and throw in the pasta. Bring back to a boil, turn down to medium and set timer for the minimum cooking time.

While pasta is cooking, heat large skillet and add oil and butter, then garlic over medium high heat. Saute garlic until it starts to brown, remove crushed cloves and add pancetta/bacon. Fry until it starts to get crispy and browned, the pour in the wine and let boil away a bit.

In a very large bowl, whisk eggs, stir in cheese and add a good amount of fresh ground pepper, as soon as pasta is al dente, drain and immediately dump in egg bowl, tossing immediately until eggs are cooked and pasta is well coated. Add contents of skillet and toss, mound on a serving platter and garnish with parsley, additional cheese, and more pepper if you can stand it. It should need no salt if you salted the pasta water sufficiently - the bacon AND cheese should give it the boost it needs.

SO simple, and with a caesar or green salad, some good bread warmed up right on the rack in the oven, and a nice glass of that white wine, all you need is some Dean Martin on the phonograph, a drippy candle and a checked tablecloth for a delightful and romantic meal. Except NO DOGS - mine are not Lady and the Tramp, and I am mad at them right now because they tore the hell out of my tree planter box in front of the house. They would have loved Aunt Kathy - she would have just give them kisses, milkbones and forgiveness....

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