My Creative Writing 101 teacher once said that writing is a really big act of ego. When a writer writes and presents their work to the world, what they are essentially saying is: “Hey, look at this, read this! It’s good! Hey, hey! Look at me!” And it really can’t be helped because most fictional and many non-fictional works are inadvertently about the writer’s self.
When I first started this blog, I wanted to write about places to go, restaurants to try, and fun things to wear. But then I also started writing personal reflections, opinions, giving updates on my life… It became a place to share some of my stories, and a catch-basin for “publishable” journal thoughts. Without meaning for it to happen, this blog became this great act of ego, a series of entries I felt are worth other people’s time to read.
The same can be said about the next entry, which is basically a sharing of the self, more than I’ve ever done the past. At least I think so. I really don’t know why, but last night as I stared down at yet another plate of pasta, I thought to share this essay.
Originally written as an assignment for writing class. The assignment was to write about an obsession and what it says about you. Well, this is what I came up with.
I’m obsessed with spaghetti. If there is one food in the world that has received my undying love and devotion, spaghetti would be it. When you were younger, did you know a kid that ate the same thing everyday for years? I was that kid! And spaghetti was my thing. It was my thing from the 3rd grade until my freshman year at uni.
Each day after school, I’d go home and ask for a plate of spaghetti. In the beginning I’d have to wait an hour for my fix, but soon my cook and nanny were so used to the request, that I’d have a steaming hot plate of goodness waiting for me as soon as I arrived. Let me tell you, NOTHING goes with Kim Possible and Dexter’s Laboratoryquite like classic Bolognese.
I can’t remember how old I was the day I arrived and found my father in the kitchen, waiting for me. He was at the island table with chopped garlic, diced onions, salt, pepper, ground beef, olive oil, fresh herbs, and tomato sauce.
“What’s happening?” I demanded. Then to the cook, “May I have spaghetti please?”
“Today,” my dad said. “You will learn how to make your own spaghetti.”
At first I wasn’t happy. That meant I’d have to wait before eating, and I was hungry, damn it! Plus I didn’t want anyone to beat me to the T.V.
But I obediently sat and watched my father make the sauce. I watched as he sautéed the onions and garlic. My tummy grumbled as he browned the meat. My elbows and hands grew tired of propping up my chin as he let the sauce simmer for twenty minutes, always, always keeping it right below its real boiling point.
Apart from thinking and knowing that the entire process took long enough for me to miss a good hour of cartoons, there are two things I remember most about that day. The first is that at the end of everything, he took a little cup and poured some sauce into it. Then he gave me a spoon and asked me to try it. He wanted to know if it needed seasoning. He didn’t realise that this was the beginning of a tradition. For a very long time, whenever we’d make spaghetti sauce at home, my dad and I would get little cups and try the sauce at the end.
The second is how a great sauce starts. It starts with a good base. It starts with good olive oil. It starts with seasoning your onions and your garlic, not the meat. “It’s just like a building,” my father always said. “Your foundation, your base is everything.” Like the tradition with the cups, I don’t know if he realised that he was teaching me a really important lesson. That those words apply to more than just engineering and spaghetti sauce.
If I were to make a rough estimate, I would say that I learned to make spaghetti sauce about eighteen to twenty years ago. Every home I’ve ever lived in has never been without spaghetti sauce in the fridge or freezer. Whenever I’d visit or move to a new place, it is the first thing I’d make. Madrid, Paris, Sydney, Auckland, the island of Bohol, and now the island of Manhattan have all been touched by my dad’s spaghetti recipe.
Spaghetti has become more than just my favourite food. It’s become a reminder of who I am and where I come from, which admittedly is strange because I’m Asian. Each time I finish a batch of sauce and take my little cup, I remember my childhood. I remember how important it is to keep tradition and to love family. I remember that everything starts with a good base and how important it is to build that. For someone like me, someone afflicted with wanderlust, those two memories and the lessons I learned from them are absolutely everything.
One final note… I may have to start a whole new blog again. One that more properly categorises all these past entries. Just a thought for now.