On missing the point

To me, nothing better makes the case for the essential nothingness of pasta than the evident need to titivate the stuff by presenting it variously as worms, squashed worms, wider squashed worms, frizzy worms, small-bore tubes, large-bore tubes, pouches and bow-ties. It’s all basically flour and water, and a crafty way of delivering cheap starch with a lick of sauce and calling it a meal. The whole thing is an Italian confidence trick played upon English class-anxiety, and the reason you can’t dislike pasta is the reason you can’t really like it either: it’s the culinary equivalent of a blank page. Give me potatoes every time, and shape them into bosoms, swans or butterflies if you must.

Actually, it is like potatoes. Which we produce mashed, roast, baked, chipped, creamed, dauphinoise and so on. Each form being right for what it accompanies. So with pasta. Some shapes are for hearty soups, some for clear bouillons. Some sauces stick better to certain shapes – heavier sauces generally require flatter, tagliatelle not spaghetti. And so on and on.

Roast beef, gravy and chips? Grouse and baked? Just no. So too farfalle bolognese, or lasagne alla vongole…..

25 thoughts on “On missing the point”

  1. How does the shape of one’s pasta feed into “English Class Anxiety”? Is he implying that we agonise over “the right pasta to use” or that some shapes are “common” and others “classy”? Or is it the dry versus fresh debate that is weighing on his mind.

    Sounds to me like he needs to adjust the proportions of pasta and sauce in his evening meal.

  2. Again, this is simply more evidence that publishers need new material all the time to attract the eyeballs of the advertising victim class.

    It doesn’t matter – basically – what the material is about nor the quality of the writing. What matters is someone clicks and lingers a tad. So something essentially lacking in content which doesn’t offend established readers is good. I’d say Mr. Parris is delivering exactly what they need.

    Entertainment seems to pay what it’s worth these days- near zilch.

  3. Carbohydrates are slave food.

    Chinese coolies and European peasants toil in the rice and cereal fields. Free men feast on the flesh and the ferment of animals. Did angels of the LORD appear to puling serfs? No, they visited noble shepherds, the princes of the pastures.

    Join me, brothers. We shall crush the Khwarazmians, besiege Beijing, and hunt down every last vegan in London and make the attractive Asian ones with the big boobies our concubines.

  4. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    If he thinks its essentially nothing he is obviously buying cheap, flavourless pasta.

  5. I don’t agree that different kinds of pasta equate to different ways to eat spuds. Mash and chips differ more than different shaped pasta – a different set of additional ingredients for each preparation. It’s more akin to the difference between pasta and bread – mostly flour but different additions as well as different cooking method.
    More importantly I’ll take any kind of potato food over any kind of pasta abomination any day of the week.

  6. “Carbohydrates are slave food.”
    Yes. Always amuses me that so much of the food foodies enthuse about is actually food for peasants. Spanish one’s paella. Basically rice with stuff slung in it to give it some flavour. Valencian thing because that’s rice growing country.
    And I have actually eaten real paella in Valencia (Province) Poor Spaniards lived along the road used to invite the hombre ingles for the Sunday afternoon meal. The kids collect shellfish from the beach & they trap for prawns. A chicken or two gets its throat cut. The guys get the big paella pan hot over a wood fire & stand around cooking the rice ‘n bits whilst drinking beer & talking football. Women sit in a circle preparing salad & talking about the men. Kids do the pain in the ass thing kids do. Then you all scoff it accompanied by bread, beer or cheap red. Feeds about 30 for 10 euros. Same thing’s about 30 euros for two in the restaurants here. Fuck knows how much in a London tapas place. (Tapas are, by definition, free. That’s the point of them)

  7. Pasta is great for catching fish. A handful of boiled pasta thrown into the sea and the water seems to he boiling. I’ve tried using potatoes, boiled, mashed, sauteed, and chipped. Nothing.

  8. Pasta is tasteless and suitable only for peasants or opinionated women trying and failing to lose weight, or in shorthand

    Serf and Terf

  9. I agree with the bit about pasta having to be made in different shapes to make it a bit more interesting but that’s all. Otherwise, it’s just food, I don’t try to psychoanalyse my food choices. I normally use fusilli because it mixes with the sauce better.

  10. hunt down every last vegan in London and make the attractive Asian ones with the big boobies our concubines

    Sounds like a plan. Although if you are talking about East Asian women and their boobies, Chinese/Japanese/Korean women who grow up in the West very often have magnificent orbs, thanks to the extra meat and dairy in their diet.

    @BiS – the last Spanish restaurant I visited here in Hong Kong charged around €50 for a chicken paella to serve two….

  11. A certain Italian of my acquaintance could be systematically riled by me referring to any variety of pasta as spaghetti 🙂

  12. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    MC, how sane/normal is HK at the moment?

    I am seriously looking for somewhere more sane/normal than Germany (so basically almost anywhere else) to escape to for a few months and a tiny flat in CWB would do fine. If the surroundings are tolerable in corona and CCP sense, that is.

  13. On starches: I suspect that spag goes better with ragu than tatties would but otherwise I’m a tattie fan. I can’t imagine eating cod’n’spag. Corn on the cob fan too, and oats in many forms. Barley is best consumed as beer.

  14. @ Andrew C

    My father was once called in to fix the machine that made the ‘penis pasta’ here in the UK. His normal gig was maintaining paper making lines but they were suitably similar that he was able to do the job. Came home with a few bags of the offending shapes which caused some chuckles. That was back in the mid 90’s I think.

  15. Meh. It’s british “cooking”.. Whether pasta, taters, or rice, it’d be cooked beyond resurrection or redemption anyway.. 😛

    @dearieme There’s actually several ways to combine cod and pasta into quite delicious dishes. None of them resemble whatever abomination the brits would make of it though …. 😛

  16. @Grikath – before you have a go at British “cooking”, please explain the Dutch fascination with croket and bitteballen. A more disgusting foodstuff I’ve yet to find.

  17. @Henry Crun. Those are the result of a couple of scots bragging about how they could deep-fry anything. So we asked whether they could deep-fry soup, which they shamefacedly had to answer in the negative.
    Next we prodeeded to show them how it was done, and thus the kroket was born. The bitterbal is just the early experimental phase.

    And it’s not surprising you find them disgusting since they’re evolved from a quite highbrow way to present ragouts on a plate without it running all over the place and cooling at courts, through the 19thC towards a Poor Man’s Food, followed by modern “processing” and Profit..
    The stuff you can get in the supermarkets and snackbars is, well.. you get what you pay for when it comes to food.. Real handmade kroketten are quite a different matter.

    Same as the brits have Pies and…well… Dibbler Specials.

  18. ‘ It’s all basically flour and water, and a crafty way of delivering cheap starch with a lick of sauce and calling it a meal.’

    Pasta is not a meal in Italy, it is part of the meal. It is served ahead of the a main dish of meat or fish to be the filler and energy provider. In the same way Yorkshire pudding traditionally is served first with meat juices before a main course of meat and veg.

    We typically take our starch/stodgy – potatoes – on the same plate with our meat, the Italians just take it before.

    Although in some Countries pasta is served as an accompaniment to a meat dish replacing potatoes, that is not the Italian way.

    Pasta shapes and sauces are regional. There is no such thing as spaghetti Bolognese in Italy. Spaghetti is southern Italian served with tomato based sauces, Bolognese is meat based from that region used in lasagne for example.

  19. I have found that the trick with spaghetti is to buy the expensive stuff ( De Cecco ) and cook it EXACTLY like it says on the pack. Use a big pan nearly full of boiling water ( so the heat doesn’t drop much when adding the pasta ) and cook for precisely the recommended time eg 11 minutes and NOT 11 and a half minutes. Then it should be slightly firm in the middle and tastes of wheat. It is worth the extra diligence (and the extra expense is tiny ).
    My sister’s Italian husband considers my spaghetti to be passable, which is praise indeed.

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