Growing up my mother taught me one way to make pasta. You boil the water, you put the pasta in for the time on the box, and then you drain it and pour the sauce over it. We won’t talk about her sauce here. The only time you did something different with the pasta was if you were making the boxed macaroni and cheese, in which case you added the powdered cheese, butter, and milk and stirred. That was how I was raised to think about pasta. My only other memories of my mother and pasta was when she was making a noodle kugel, but then she still made her egg noodles the same way or kasha varnikas in which she boiled the noodles and added them to the kasha. Overall, her basic approach was boil, drain, and use.
Growing up, I became aware that pasta did not always come in a box. In many households, it was handmade. However, for now I am going to talk about what I learned about making dry pasta as I think that is what most people use on a daily basis, at least I do. Over the last decade, I have been noticing these subtle little tips from my favorite foodnetwork chefs about cooking pasta. Anne Burrell, for example, taught me the importance of salting the water as it is the one time you have to season the pasta. Scott Conant, who I have dreams/nightmares about cooking pasta for taught me to take the pasta straight from the water to the sauce and to use some of the pasta water as it contains some of the starch from the pasta and can help thicken the sauce.
However, recently, I learned a way that combines the advice I got from Anne and Scott but put a different twist on it. I learned to cook my pasta in all the ingredients, which were going to become a part of my sauce and dish. One of the things I came to realize in learning to cook my pasta this way is that each type of pasta requires a different amount of water to cook in creating these one pot wonders. I talked about this a few weeks ago in W is for Water. By cooking my pasta with all the other ingredients it picks up all the seasonings from the cooking fluid as Anne Burrell recommended, but the starch from the pasta helps to thicken the sauce in which the pasta is cooking. I have not needed to move it from the water to the sauce as the water, along with the other ingredients becomes the sauce.
As I started to think about the culinary journey I have been on in terms of cooking pasta, I realized that it paralleled my spiritual journey. There was a point in time where my making pasta was very basic. I followed the directions I was given and never questioned why or how or if there was another way. I was not concerned with whether or not it resonated with my spirit or it felt like this is where I was supposed to be worshipping. I was just following the directions and doing what I had been told.
Over time, I began to realize that while there some aspects of my spiritual life, which might parallel others, I needed to add my own personal “seasoning” to my life and I no longer needed to be drained before being added to the sauce. I just needed someone to help me move from one space to another. I had teachers along the way, some of whom I have never met, who helped me to move forward in my faith journey and to find a way of expressing myself and my relationship with the Ultimate in my own way.
Now, I am at a space in my journey where I am, in some respects like a one pot wonder. I am constantly surrounded by the other “ingredients” in my spiritual life, which “season” me, and which are absorbed by or flow through me. Everything in my life is influencing who I am and who I am becoming. I surround myself with those things, which are essential to my spiritual journey and we work together to create something that as a whole is greater than the sum of our parts.
Each of the people I have met in my journey seems to be at one of the three spaces I have been in my life. I appreciated where I was in the beginning, but I am excited about where I am now. I am looking forward to the next step in my spiritual pasta adventure.