July 5, 2012

Paris in the Twenties; Noodles in Minutes

When she was well, I rarely asked her for help or advice, even in the raising of my children, though she was always kindly and willing. I tried to be both in return, but it was always an effort for me. I was terrified of getting too close to her weakness for fear it would become my own.

That night in the kitchen she cried on, and I brought her a plate so we could share the spaghetti. We did not embrace, did not promise to take care of each other forever and always. We were characters in a gritty, frayed, unsentimental movie for which the 1970s are celebrated.
—Elizabeth Benedict, "Paris in the Twenties"

Wonderful story. Sharing a hot plate of food really can act as a band-aid on any problematic relationship, such as the one between this mother and daughter. The daughter is afraid of becoming her mother, and her mother is afraid that her daughter will leave her, just like her husband. Since the family is having money problems, they resort to eating spaghetti for weeks on end. It certainly makes sense; spaghetti is definitely an economical comfort food. A pack of spaghetti is priced, at most, at $1.25, even in the absurdly priced supermarkets of New York. You can probably find a jar of tomato sauce for just around $2 to $3. Throw in a few cheap but aromatic additions (onions and garlic, maybe a few mushrooms) and you've got a meal for a small family, with very little effort.

Out of all the foods one could choose to stress eat when one is on the brink of disaster, I'd take a plate of spaghetti over a bag of potato chips any day. A hot plate of food is infinitely more satisfying. But then again, I'm the kind of girl who finds it hard to turn down a plate of noodles even when she's full. For me, the hierarchy goes: noodles* > rice > bread. *Noodles include most pastas except orzo (my least favorite carb of all time, probably).

But what's even more quick and simple than spaghetti? Somen noodles (skinny Japanese wheat noodles that come in small bundles). Just bring a pot of water to a boil. Unwrap a bundle of somen noodles and drop them in the water to cook for about 1 or 2 minutes. Drizzle some soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl. Fish the somen out of the water, but leave the pot of water on the stove. Mix the somen into the sauce in the bowl.

Poach an egg, some broccoli, and a handful of corn in the noodle cooking water. Spoon them out of the water and on top of your seasoned somen noodles. Add some slivers of cucumber, if desired. There you have it: A quick, easy meal that's just as simple and delicious as spaghetti.

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