There are many excellent things about getting married, and even more, about being married (Shauna has known this for more than two days now, and Molly -- girl, you're up next). One of the excellent things that feels slightly embarrassing but is still very lovely is that lots and lots and lots of people want to give you presents. I've never gotten so many presents.
We've received gorgeous linens and beautiful dishes and an absolutely fantastic batterie de cuisine, with all sorts of toys that I wouldn't buy for myself, but just tossed onto our registry and voila! people give them to us. Poor, long-suffering G wanted to know why we couldn't register for guitars and amps, but only for household items and of course, the culinary stuff, which, let's face it, are playthings for me. I tried to explain that Crate and Barrel doesn't carry amps, nor does Sur La Table list any guitars for sale.
He of course will enjoy the fruits (so to speak) of our new risotto pan (thanks Carolyn and Sara!) and our new pizza stone (thanks Jen and Ross!) and the new stylish glass mugs that he actually picked out for drinking his favorite icy cold root beer (thanks Karie!). But still. The only thing that he really wants to play with is the new crème brûlée torch (thanks Karen & Steve!), and he still can't understand why I didn't register for his/hers versions of those. But me, well, I'm like a child with a doll's house, as I unwrapped, for the first time in my adult life, a complete set of matching dishes that include serving platters and bowls, sugar bowl and creamer, matching teapot.
Gifts still arrive occasionally, some months after the actual nuptials. Most recently a colleague of mine grilled me mercilessly about what we might like that we hadn't yet received. When, after much duress, I mentioned the coveted pasta roller attachment for our KitchenAid stand mixer, she laughed. "Well, that seems like a fitting gift from me," (she's of Italian extraction). It just arrived about a week ago (thanks Lynn!).
This nifty gadget rolls sheets of pasta for lasagna, cuts fettucine and linguine as well. I wanted it, I registered for it, I received it, I was immediately filled with trepidation. No matter -- I would just have to face my demons and use the thing, dammit. Somehow the pasta maker felt like more of a commitment than the wedding ceremony itself. After all, G and I had been living together for some years. With pasta, I had never actually made my own; the very idea of it made me feel more like an anxious maiden on my wedding night than, well, my actual wedding night.
To calm these virginal fears, I turned to a person on this great good thing we call the internets who, I feel confident, has a rather remarkable handle on pasta. If you don't know the blog The Omnivorous Fish, indeed you should. The author (who goes by the blogging moniker Joe Fish) brings a relaxed and reflective quality to his posts, which are not only about food and its creation but the politics, conviviality and relationships that surround it. Joe is my pasta guru, and I couldn't have chosen a better one. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable, he's kind too -- as my story will demonstrate.
Recently I'd been entranced by his posts on gnocchi -- and I still have plans to give the gnocchi a go. But I could not be swayed from my purpose, which was to learn the art of rolled pasta, even if I were going to use a machine for the rolling part. Fortunately, he put up a post about working with a whole wheat pasta dough, which opened the door for me to barrage him with pasta questions. Did I say Joe was kind? Kind, and generous. He responded to my questions by putting up an "Emergency Pasta Addendum" to help me with my pasta issues. If nothing else ever proves the point, these posts show that the great good thing about these internets is that you can always depend upon the kindness of strangers.
I won't put up a recipe, since I want to fiddle and play around and experiment a bit. I suspect, as Joe too has said, that the exact recipe isn't as important as gaining a feeling for the dough, for knowing how it feels when it comes out just right. I used the machine for rolling, but followed Joe's advice and cut them by hand, loving the rustic look and texture of them. They were light and ethereal, with almost a "handkerchief" quality -- absolutely worth the work they entailed, just for their luscious texture and their way of absorbing the flavors of the sauce. Perhaps I rolled them a bit too thin for my sauce, a glorious mix of market vegetables and herbs, a bit of cream and sheeps' milk cheese. So I'll keep changing things up -- the amount of water I use to get the right feel, whether or not to include salt or olive oil, the thinness to which I decide to roll any particular batch of noodles. And Joe assures us that, as with all good cuisine, experimentation is the name of the game. He too plays with different pasta formulae.
In one of his responses to my comment about how it was all going, Joe mentions that he's considering the possibility of giving a pasta class. I know I'm signed up already, even if he hasn't really agreed to do it yet. If you're in the greater NY metropolitan area -- or you're willing to travel-- and you too want to conquer your pasta demons, give this some thought. We might even talk him into doing gnocchi, too.