Twine, butterflies, quill pens, little worms, wheels, snails shells, little ears, angel hair, twins, radiators, cocks’ combs, shoestrings, little tongues, wood knots, little sparrows, rifles, and priest-stranglers. An accounting of the goods and customers in a post-apocalyptic rag and bone shop? No, Italian names for pasta.
What do we have so many names for? Cars? Money? So many times when I’m writing about food, I stop, stumped for a word to describe a flavor other than “spicy,” “salty,” “sweet,” or “sour.” I love to talk to my children about food–their descriptions so often veer towards the tactile. Foods are not only “mushy,” or “crunchy,” but also “slippery,” “squeaky,” and “sharp.” I find that some things are “tickly,” or “velvety,” myself. My favorite recipes are ones that call for a “glug” of oil and use visual words like “stringy,” “ropy,” “satiny,” and “bubbly.” In our increasingly virtual world, there’s not much left that is as sensual as food. Food engages all five senses–sizzling, popping, searing, piled high on the plate in a gorgeous abundance of color and nutty, caramelly, tongue-tingly flavor, wafting scented steam. Is creamy a flavor or a feeling? How delightful that it is both! Here’s hoping we all take a little time to register the nuances of pleasure available to us three times a day . . . maybe good food is the Mother Tongue after all.
Cauliflower & Bacon Strozzapreti
2 strips bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 red onion, slivered
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, julienned
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
small handful torn basil and chopped parsley
1 pound strozzapreti, or pasta shape of your choice
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet with high sides, saute bacon in olive oil. When bacon begins to get crisp add onions and garlic and saute until golden. Add sundried tomatoes and toss. Add cauliflower florets and saute until tender-crisp. Meanwhile, boil pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta cooking water. Add pasta to skillet along with cooking water, a handful of grated parmesan and herbs. Toss everything together and serve with additional grated parmesan on top.