Nineteen-eighty-four was the Year of Spaghetti.
In 1984, I cooked spaghetti to live, and lived to cook spaghetti. Steam rising from the pot was my pride and joy, tomato sauce bubbling up in the sauce-pan my one great hope in life.
I went to a cooking specialty store and bought a kitchen timer and a huge aluminum pot, big enough to bathe a German shepherd in, then went around to all the supermarkets that catered to foreigners, gathering an assortment of odd-sounding spices. I picked up a pasta cookbook at the bookstore, and bought tomatoes by the dozen. I purchased every brand of spaghetti I could lay my hands on, simmered every sauce known to man. Fine particles of garlic, onion, and olive oil swirled in the air, forming a harmonious cloud that penetrated every corner of my tiny apartment, permeating the floor and the ceiling and the walls, my clothes, my books, my records, my violin, my bundles of old letters. It was a fragrance one might have smelled on ancient Roman aqueducts.
This is a story from the Year of Spaghetti, 1984 A.D.
As a rule, I cooked spaghetti, and ate it, by myself. I was convinced that spaghetti was a dish best enjoyed alone. I can't really explain why I felt that way, but there it is.
I always drank tea with my spaghetti and ate a simple lettuce-and-cucumber salad. I'd make sure I had plenty of both. I laid everything out neatly on the table and enjoyed a leisurely meal, glancing at the paper as I ate. From Sunday to Saturday, one Spaghetti Day followed another. And each new Sunday started a brand-new Spaghetti Week.
Every time I sat down to a plate of spaghetti--especially on a rainy afternoon--I had the distinct feeling that somebody was about to knock on my door. The person who I imagined was about to visit me was different each time. Sometimes it was a stranger, sometimes someone I knew. Once, it was the girl with slim legs who lived down the hall, about whom I had taken a fancy, and once it was myself from a few years back, come to pay a visit. Another time it was William Holden, with Jennifer Jones on his arm.
Not one of these people, however, actually ventured into my apartment. They hovered just outside the door, without knocking, like fragments of memory, and then slipped away.
Spring, summer, and fall, I cooked and cooked, as if cooking spaghetti were an act of revenge. Like a lonely, jilted girl throwing old love letters into the fireplace, I tossed one handful of spaghetti after another into the pot.
I'd gather up the trampled-down shadows of time, knead them into the shape of a German shepherd, toss them into the roiling water, and sprinkle them with salt. Then I'd hover over the pot, oversized chopsticks in hand, until the timer dinged its plaintive note.
Spaghetti strands are a crafty bunch, and I couldn't let them out of my sight. If I were to turn my back, they might well slip over the edge of the pot and vanish into the night. The night lay in silent ambush, hoping to waylay the prodigal strands.
Spaghetti alla parmigiana
Spaghetti alla napoletana
Spaghetti al cartoccio
Spaghetti aglio e olio
Spaghetti alla carbonara
Spaghetti della pina
And then there was the pitiful, nameless leftover spaghetti carelessly tossed into the fridge.
Born in heat, the strands of spaghetti washed down the river of 1984 and vanished.
I mourn them all -- all the spaghetti of the year 1984.
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