In a further attempt to expand my horizons when it comes to pasta, I decided to throw together a few different things.
I kept the basics the same – onions, garlic, mushrooms. I can never resist mushroom anything. I didn’t use any tomatoes, but I roasted some red peppers. I’m not much of a fan of peppers, but hey, here’s to trying new things and continuing my quest to not get scurvy.
Goat cheese is delicious in any form. I usually just chop some up and toss it in a salad, but I fried some a while back and had it as a snack with warmed tomato sauce, and I think I found God.
Chèvre melts so well that it’s ninety percent of a sauce all on its own. Had I just added a little lemon, seasoning, and maybe a couple more ingredients to the cheese, it would have tasted delicious. But in the words of Michael from The Good Place, it’s so human to take something great and ruin it just a little so we can have more of it. (Not that this is ruining anything. It’s awesome, really.) So I added the goat cheese and a little half and half to the red peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms, squeezed in a lemon, and seasoned.
It tasted really good. Personally, I’d still go for a tomato based sauce over any other kind 364 days of the year, but this is definitely worth a try. Do it for the goat cheese, if nothing else – goat cheese everything is life.
I’m a student. As such, I eat a lot of pasta – if I were honest, probably more than I should. I usually stand by tomato based sauces with tube shaped noodles, and I still maintain that that’s my favourite type of pasta dish, but somewhere along the line, I figured that I should consume some more green vegetables in my unhealthy pasta based student diet. You know, just to make sure I don’t get scurvy and die. Thus, this spinach and basil sauce with fettuccine. (Yes, I realize spinach isn’t high in vitamin C. Don’t call me out like that.)
I love food. But as I ranted about here, I can’t stand food elitism. Limiting food to what’s “traditional” feels ridiculous to me, and is placing unnecessary restrictions on food. It’s trying to make good food, something completely subjective, something that can be objectively measured. I’m not here for that. So I elected to ignore the so-called rules of pasta to make something I thought would taste good.
I cooked some garlic, onions, and mushrooms, then added some cream, Parmesan, basil, and spinach. I used fresh basil, but frozen spinach, because anyone that tells you have to cook with some specific thing and that if it’s not fresh, you might as well not bother is lying to you, and I wasn’t about to go to the store to get fresh spinach when I had some perfectly good frozen in my freezer.
I love mushrooms. I put them in everything. I chopped them up pretty roughly here so that I could taste them better in the finished sauce. I tossed it with fettuccine, and the end result was a rich, chunky sauce that clung to the noodles, and, if I say so myself, tasted delicious.
The original goal was to incorporate some more vegetables in my diet. I managed that much! Was it healthy? No, not even a little bit. But I tried something new, ate some spinach, and had a tasty meal. I even learned that I should absolutely not drop out of engineering to become a food photographer. Seems like a pretty productive experiment to me! Healthy can come later. One step at a time, right?
I really can’t stand when someone complains about the “Americanization” of food, because so often, that’s used as the sole justification for why it’s not good. Inauthentic is not always synonymous with bad, and Americanization is being used as a blanket term for something as simple as catering food for regional tastes.
I’ve seen it a lot with regards to Italian food. While I personally may find some aspects of the traditional Italian more appealing than I do Italian American, I think it’s important to remember that food in America is very different from food anywhere else, because the restaurants have been built by immigrants. Oftentimes, the food can be classified as authentic – it’s just become something entirely different than what it was originally. Italian American food is now something that has Italian roots, but is distinctly American, and something good. Thick, rich, deeply flavourful tomato sauce that’s been cooked for a long time and smells amazing? That’s not traditional, but it’s delicious. Authenticity isn’t always better. It may not even exist at all – how could it, when today, everyone all over the world has easy access to ingredients and cooking methods that didn’t even exist a hundred years ago?
Some of my favourite things to cook are hearty, tomato based pasta sauces. I don’t like chunks of tomato – I really am not a fan of raw tomatoes at all – but I love the taste of them when they’re roasted or slow cooked. So a tomato sauce with garlic, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and a tiny bit of cream? Sign me up.
Something I find strange though is that people tend to complain about the Americanization of European food more than anything else. Tex Mex is pretty universally acknowledged to be its own thing separate from traditional Mexican. A lot of Asian foods are never seen outside of whatever country they come from. In the US, there’s a narrow range of foods from non-European countries that’s considered acceptable and worth eating.
Indian food sold in American restaurants is heavy and rich, based on the dishes commonly served in the north of India. It’s not even close to representing the entire range of Indian cuisine, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m Indian. I like traditional Indian food. My mother’s family is Tamilian, and that type of food is something that you can find in Toronto and New York and a few other major cities, but very few places aside from that in North America. I also enjoy the standard fare served in just about every Indian restaurant in the country that no one ever complains about being inauthentic, despite it being so. Would it be nice if more authentic food was available? Sure. But not everything has to be authentic to be tasty.
This fixation on authenticity only in regards to certain cuisines ties into the idea that cuisines such as French and Italian are somehow intrinsically superior to foods from other parts of the world. I’m not a fan of French food. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with French food or that it’s not good, it’s just not to my personal tastes. I like Italian food, I do. But I don’t find Italian better than, say, Thai or Lebanese. I think it’s ludicrous to claim that Italian or French cuisine requires more skill or effort than dishes from other parts of the world, and in fact, it’s demonstrably false. There’s nothing special about authentic Italian that isn’t also true about authentic food of any culture. Food can and should evolve because of new tastes, to use new ingredients, or even from just experimentation and trying something different. It’s both pretentious and ridiculous to never stray from a set of recipes that have been declared authentic just because anything else would be inauthentic. Italian food purists don’t recognize that.
This double standard extends to the cost of food as well. We still view food from non-Western cultures as inherently inferior, as something that, while tasty, isn’t worth a lot of money or time. They’re considered poor countries, meaning that the food should be cheap. I’m thinking about things like small Vietnamese restaurants – no matter how much effort each dish takes, people get upset and call it overpriced if a meal is more than, like, ten dollars, even if it is a large amount of delicious food. These same people don’t bat an eye at paying the same amount for a meal at Panera, despite none of what’s offered there being remotely difficult to prepare at home.
Food is amazing. There’s so much to enjoy about it, no matter where what you’re eating comes from. But it becomes much, much more enjoyable when you let go of the idea of doing it “right”, and instead focus on what tastes good.