Pasta Shapes my MemoriesApril 25, 2013
Apparently, there are more than 250 pasta shapes available but I have no idea why.
I’m sure there’s someone out there who has set themselves the task of sampling every single one and probably blogged about it. Me? I’m happy to stick to the five or six I enjoy regularly, perhaps because of my strong associations with them.
One of my favourites is maccheroni (with a good meat ragu) as they remind me of the time my mother was hired to demonstrate this dish in a Sydney CBD department store in the late ‘50s. I was maybe four when I helped her hand out the paper dishes laden with pasta (direct from boiling pots of water and sauce) to a largely pasta-ignorant crowd of shoppers. Ah, those wacky days before OH&S took over.
I like mafaldine too. There they are, the long curly strands flying through the air from the kitchen to the backyard of the boarding house next door in ‘60s inner-west Balmain. Unwanted by the young Italian male lodgers – bored by yet another pasta dinner I guess – their loss was the pet dog’s gain.
Occasionally I’ll cook creste di gallo (roosters’ combs) just to hear my grandfather’s voice denouncing them as shaped “like old folks’ dentures”.
But more often than not, I reach for spaghetti, despite my first school kid trauma of discovering a tuckshop spaghetti sandwich was not what mamma made: it was some kind of sickly sweet orange coloured pap.
Spaghetti, or sometimes linguine, is the pasta of choice in many film scenes. You just can’t convey some messages with any other shape. The Italian journalist who coined the phrase ‘Spaghetti Western’ in the mid ‘60s knew his onions.
Think about the steamy kitchen sink scene in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment when Jack Lemmon prepares dinner for Shirley Maclaine and strains the pasta over a tennis racquet. “You’re pretty good with that racquet” she says, to which Lemmon replies “Wait till you see me serve the meatballs!”
Or the spaghetti-eating scene with the two besotted dogs in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.
But the last word goes to Walter Matthau (Oscar) in Neil Simon’s 1967 bachelor fest The Odd Couple during a nasty fight when he throws Felix’s freshly cooked plate of spaghetti, er, linguine* and sauce against a kitchen wall, where it slowly drops off. That image just wouldn’t be the same with bow-tie or shell-shaped pasta.
* Watch the ‘Odd Couple’ clip for the spaghetti v linguine tussle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDXSXkYoM5Y
Lose yourself in the definitive Guide to Pasta Shapes