Carbonara, for instance, is easy to prepare. This matters because when I’m writing I find it challenging to do anything that requires a lot of coordinating and decision-making. The words overtake my mind so completely that I’m better off doing something simple and meditative with my non-writing hours, something dull and mindless like scrubbing the pans or weeding the yard. This is fine by my husband, who would much rather cook than clean up the mess.
Carbonara is about as simple as I can get and still have a meal worth serving to others. The shopping is breathtakingly straightforward: bacon—or, if I’m lucky, the Italian bacon called guanciale. A good-sized hunk of well aged parmigiano reggiano. A fistful of fresh parsley. The rest is usually lying around the kitchen already: red wine, garlic, eggs, black pepper, and linguine or some other variety of pasta. As a habit I am always trying to match the perfect pasta shape with each of my favorite sauces (tip: carbonara + bucatini = love). But linguine is the default choice, the choice with which you can’t go wrong.
When I was a child, my father would order twenty-pound boxes of linguine from a specialty pasta maker in St. Louis, a place he learned of from his own father. He’d have them shipped up to our house in Anchorage five at a time and then store them in the large cool cabinets under the kitchen counter. A hundred pounds lasted about a year. The noodles were so long they looped back over themselves, forming loose hooks at the end so that I could hold them in one hand and pretend to walk as if with a cane. Sometimes when playing hide-and-seek I climbed in and perched atop the boxes in the dark. In my world, linguine is the bar against which all other noodles are measured.
It would be unthinkable to write—
and by that I mean write about the difficult, the uncertain things; the things that sting or swelter; the things so beautiful there is a kind of pain in the knowledge that not even memory preserves them completely—
without a bowl of linguine to comfort me occasionally at the end of the day.