Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Spaghetti Carbonara of Solitude

Well, owing to recent developments, this blog is going to have an increased emphasis on meals for one for the foreseeable future.

If you're suddenly single, you can go one of two ways. You can sit at home in the dark, stop cutting your nails and shaving and bathing, and start storing your urine in bottles. Or you can take care of yourself: exercise more, meditate, redecorate, go shopping, find a therapist, allow yourself to feel whatever pain and sadness and anger you need to (but express it in such a way that you can eventually get through the other side and let go of it), and keep living your life.

You have the same choice in how you eat. You can put your favorite pizza place on speed-dial, go to the grocery store and load up your grocery cart with frozen tv dinners and boxes of instant mac 'n' cheese and ice cream, and put all your plates and dishes into storage since you'll be eating out of pans and boxes anyway. Pile your dirty utensils in your bathtub so you can wash them while you shower. Eventually you'll start stalking the neighbors' pets and the animal control people will have to shoot you with a tranquilizer rifle and take you away to release you in the wild.

Or you can take care of yourself. Make yourself something decent to eat. If you're eating alone, that's all the more reason to make sure that what you're putting in your mouth is truly worth eating. You owe it to yourself. You don't have to go to wild obsessive heights of culinary abandon at every meal; that would make your friends worry. But it will do you no harm, and much good, to develop a repertoire of elegant, easy, soul-restoring meals for one.

This is as good a place to start as any:

Start heating your (generously salted) pasta water. Grate a couple of big handfuls of parmeggiano-reggiano. Beat one of the handfuls with an egg and a whole bunch of freshly-ground black pepper in the bowl you plan to eat your dinner out of. Set aside. Tinily dice a quarter-pound of good slab bacon. Peel four cloves of garlic and crush them with the heel of your hand. Saute the garlic in olive oil till golden. Fish out the garlic and discard it, and add the bacon to the hot pan. Cook the bacon till crispy. Add a big splash of white wine and let it boil and reduce by about half. At some point during this process, your pasta water will have come to a boil and you will have thrown in about a third of a pound of spaghetti. You might make a salad while it finishes cooking. When the pasta's done, drain it quickly and put it, still steamy-hot, into the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss the pasta till each strand is coated with egg. Add the bacon mixture and toss again. Grind on a little more pepper if you like and top with the rest of the cheese.

(About that raw egg vis a vis salmonella concerns: the idea is that the heat from the spaghetti will actually cook the egg into a glaze coating each strand of pasta. If you do things right, I don't think you have a lot to worry about here. Don't be such a weenie about things.)

(But do use good organic eggs. If you're really worried, buy pasturized ones.)


An Briosca Mor said...

"If you're suddenly single, you can go one of two ways. You can sit at home in the dark, stop cutting your nails and shaving and bathing, and start storing your urine in bottles. Or you can take care of yourself."

As I believe Homer Simpson once said, You mean I can't do both?

Now, spaghetti carbonara. As it happens, that was one of the dishes I tried out of a cookbook I had back when I first got out of school and was living on my own. It was a paperback thingie called Cooking for One or Two, or somesuch. I made the dish with great anticipation, ate it, and promptly got sick. I'm pretty sure I was already coming down with something before then, so the dish or my cooking of it had absolutely nothing to do with me getting sick from it. But nevertheless, I've never made it or eaten it since. Maybe I should try again, perhaps the statute of limitations has passed by now.

I've unfortunately been cooking for one for much of my adult life. These days I tend to run my kitchen as if I am the chef of a restaurant doing one cover a night and a steady level of carryout business for breakfast and lunch. In other words, a bit of a set regular menu with the occasional daily special thrown in for spice. Mise en place often done days ahead of time, but (almost) daily marketing whenever possible. Unfortunately, at my low volume the purveyors won't deliver so I have to pick up. The business has remained quite steady for some time, but I do have room for growth - like perhaps one more steady reservation per night, the odd party group taking over the place now and then, and even the occasional walk-in customer I suppose. (Although a walk-in would have to be a very good tipper, if you get my drift...)

BTW, do you find bottles best for storing urine, or are cans perhaps better? Cans are harder to open, but much less prone to breakage, wouldn't you say?

Rob said...

Again I ask -- you aren't blogging why?

Orion said...

Never mind when the CD is coming out...when is the cookbook coming out? Nice to have found your blog Rob! I'm gonna try these recipes out!