Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fresh Pasta from The Splendid Table

Last week, perhaps you watched it, Stephen Colbert did a pithy piece on Food Insurance. The Company's idea is this, if you find yourself to have survived the apocalypse, or some man-made or natural disaster, in which all sources of food and most of humanity and the animal kingdom are wiped out, you could have enough freeze dried food (depending on how wealthy you are) neatly packed into an emergency rucksack to last you and your family three weeks or up to a year! And after this freeze dried period is up, I guess the apocalypse will be over and nature reborn, so congratulations, you can resume your life as normal! Or you will just starve a long slow death wondering why you weren't just wiped out with everyone else. Anyone seen or read The Road?

And just in case you have any doubts, Glenn Beck endorsed it!

Forgive me for sounding morose but I think this is hilarious. After watching the segment in which Colbert quoted the Food Insurance website as saying, "While your neighbors are starving, you'll be dining on boef a la borgoignon," Chris and I were left reeling, and wondering what we might do in such a situation.

It's clear that Food Insurance is all about capitalism and nothing about survival. What if your rucksack of food blows up in this apocalyptic disaster but you don't? Can you get insurance on your food insurance? Will there be a claims center open during the apocalypse? Shouldn't we be more concerned with clean drinking water anyway?  And if your freeze dried food survives, won't the rest of your food? Looking at my shelves, I think Chris and I have enough to keep us alive for three weeks.

There is a shocking but somewhat true claim on the Food Insurance website which states "Also, some people believe that storing buckets of wheat and beans makes them prepared to live through an emergency. However, most people today don't know how to grind wheat let alone do anything with raw flour. Food insurance comes ready to eat. All you have to do is add water."

In some ways this is true. There are food banks that won't accept bags of flour because they claim noone knows what to do with it, and I think something must be done about that. We have fire and flood Insurance, car insurance and health insurance because it would be unreasonable to expect people to be able to perform the services provided by these companies, themselves. I'm sure there are very few people who can perform surgery on themselves, rebuild a water damaged house or repair a totaled car. But I don't think it's unreasonable to learn how to boil some beans or bake a loaf of bread.

Which is exactly what I'll be doing if a cataclysmic event strikes. If you are truly worried about how you will eat during such an event, educate yourself. You can check books out of the library on how to cook just about everything, and wilderness survival books that can teach what and what not to eat in nature. Lets give more jobs to librarians and less to CEO's. And if you've got some rice or a few carrots, come on over and we'll have a pot-luck. Just leave the freeze dried food at home. 

Because during the apocalypse, I'll be eating pasta till the eggs run out.

Egg Pasta from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

4 jumbo eggs
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour (organic stone-ground preferred)

Directions adapted from The Splendid Table

Making pasta is quite easy but if you're really interested in making it, I suggest picking up a good Italian cookbook and reading up on it. For now, I'll give some abbreviated directions below.

Since I don't have a lot of room, I halved the recipe and I mixed my eggs and flour with my fingers, in a bowl rather than on a large flat surface. To get started, pour your flour into a bowl or onto a clean countertop, make a well in the middle and crack your eggs into it. slowly start to mix the eggs with two fingers, gradually incorporating the rest of the flour until you have a mass of shaggy dough. Begin to form the dough into a cohesive ball and knead for 3 minutes. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour. Then continue to knead for another 10 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and satiny smooth as Lynne describes. Then let the dough relax for 30 minutes to 3 hours wrapped in plastic wrap or, I just covered it with a bowl. You can skip this step if you're in a hurry. Then quarter the dough with a knife, keep three quarters covered and begin to roll out one quarter at a time.

If you have a pasta machine, follow the instructions on the machine for rolling it out and cutting it. If you don't, you can use a rolling pin to slowly roll and stretch out your dough and then cut it by hand. This is where an expert comes in, and any books by Lynne Rossetto Kasper or Marcela Hazan are great.

When your pasta is cut and shaped you can dry it out and it will last up to a week or you can toss it into boiling water while it's still fresh and in a few minutes you'll have delicious pasta. To prevent the pasta from sticking together after you've cut it, you can drape it over a chair back that's been covered with a clean dish cloth or lay it flat on a dish cloth.


  1. So brave! I'm terrifiend of trying to make my own pasta- is it worth the trouble?

  2. I think so! I know making pasta seems like something only an Italian grandmother could whip up, but it's easier than baking a cake in my opinion. And if you're willing to invest in a pasta machine you can have fresh linguine on your plate in less than an hour.