Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The long and bombastic saga of the Spaghetti Milkshake

You know what they say about assumptions, right? Something like them making an “ass” of “u” and “mptions.” Can’t quite put my finger on it. I do, however, understand the point: assumptions are so often proven wrong. You might assume that the Republican Party can’t possibly have more closeted homosexuals than we already knew about, but you’d be wrong. You might assume that popcorn is a harmless, nutrition-free snack-‘em, incapable of causing asbestosis-style lung agony, but you’d be wrong there too. And you might assume that a plate of spaghetti cannot be pulverized into a pour-able slurry and drank out of a mildly comical coffee mug. You’d be wrong on that one as well.

To begin at the beginning: I have a long-time roommate with whom I’ve had a series of ongoing, seemingly endless debates. The topics of contention have ranged from philosophical to downright ludicrous and the arguments always remain civil, save the occasional Momma’s joke or quick screwdriver stab to the kidney. Most of the time I think we both realize that we view the world in vastly different ways and our chats are more a way of illuminating these differences, defending them, and explaining them rather than trying to alter the other person’s beliefs. He’s not one of those infuriating arguers who are determined to win the conversation rather than winning the argument. Fox News has most of them on staff anyhow.

Now: one of our episodic debates concerns food, specifically what food’s good for. He believes, essentially, that food is fuel and that all that epicurean hullabaloo is a waste of energy, resources, and time, not to mention being part of an inherently unfair system that penalizes the impoverished with Slim Jims and dirty water. In his perfect world, all of humanity eats nourishment pellets and vitamin gruel and nobody’s the wiser. We’re all healthy, nobody starves, and all it takes is taste bud genocide. I, on the other hand, argue for the importance of flavor, texture, and variety in food. Also: I am pro-chewing. Sure, I admit, food is fuel. But that doesn’t mean it needs to taste like cement and anus.*

Eventually, this debate wended its way towards reality. You can debate the merits of universal Matrix-style slop-food all day long, but if you’re working three days a week for peanuts, you’re probably not going to get it done. Eventually, the debate worked its way to the following quandary: if food is just fuel, why eat spaghetti instead of, say, a spaghetti milkshake? What’s with all that pointless masticating and variety? Why cook when you can blend? It became a kind of running joke. “Where’s my spaghetti milkshake?” he would ask. “Up your ass,” I would answer and that’d be that. Until last night. Last night, we made the spaghetti milkshake.

Now you may ask yourself,* “how does one go about making a spaghetti milkshake?” There is a surprising scarcity of literature on the subject, so the enterprising chef is left to his own devices. I figured a good place to start was with your basic pasta with marinara sauce and deal with the various issues that would certainly (and did eventually) arise. I did so and it smelled good. Just some farfalle and a simple sauce of plum tomatoes, onions, some fresh basil, a few sauteed carrots, and a few run of the mill seasonings. Not five-star Italian eating, mind you, but no Olive Garden $6.99 special either. Then, predictably, I tossed it in a blender. Then, also predictably, that blender didn’t work. It did do a fantastic job pushing my ingredients against the side of the jar and emitting that peculiar overheating motor aroma, however.

So we make the executive decision and switch to the food processor. It has many advantages, not the least of which was that it was made at some point in my life time. At this point, we transfered the still-mostly-looks-like-a-spaghetti-dinner mixture into the food processor and, suddenly, it's looking good. And by "good" I mean "hideous." The red in the sauce and the starchy bland yellow of the pasta blended into a sickly bright-orange mash that looked, well, kind of like vomit. And by "kind of," I mean "a hell of a lot."

Yet, it still smelled good. The problem was the consistency. We weren't yet at "drinkable" or even "milkshake with a spoon" consistency. It was more the texture and density of a thick hummus. So I added a little tomato juice and a little veggie stock. Then a little more. Then a little more. And then: success! By which I mean: viscous spaghetti! Naturally.

So we tipped the Cuisinart and poured ourselves a cup. And, you know what? It completely exceeded my expectations.** In fact, I had two sips. My roomie, to his unending credit, went back for seconds, if not thirds, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought a Thermos of liquefied pasta with him to work today. God, I hope he did. It would really make my day.

Anyway, it’s my custom to look for morals in episodes like this. In other words, what, if anything, did we learn from our little experiment? Well, we learned that solid foods can be made liquid. Cynics might hand me an ice cube and laugh, so I’ll amend that: we learned that a spaghetti dinner can be eaten with only a straw. We learned that there is a whole cuisine of food left unexplored by the Wolfgang Pucks of the world, namely Designer Gruel. And, while I started the whole experiment to prove a point---that point being that spaghetti should be served on a plate---I came around rather quickly. If you want your food smushed into a textureless paste, you have my full and complete support. It’s a Libertarian sort of lesson, but it’s always good to remember: “Live and let live.” Or is it “Live and let die”? Either way, we should totally write a song about it.

* Is that my beautiful wife? Is that my large automobile?

** Honestly, it did kind of taste like spaghetti. But there was about it. Maybe it was a texture thing or the veggie broth or the fact that it looked like food that came up rather than food that goes down, but there was a sickly kind of aftertaste. Like food that's going bad but hasn't quite turned. Like some leftovers that didn't quite make it to the refrigerator. I can't explain it much better than that.


Giova said...

God, how I love your posts!
You made my day, and by made my day I mean elicited my gag reflex but still made me laugh.

Steve said...

My only question -- did you cook the pasta before throwing it in the food processor, or did it go in raw?

If it's the former, doesn't this somewhat contradict your roommate's point about efficiency? By cooking the pasta and THEN blending it, you're adding required labor. Then again, I guess you're saving labor by not actually making and simmering the sauce, so I guess it all kind of evens out in the end.

If it's the latter, and you actually used raw pasta, well bully to you, sir. That idea frankly frightens me.

SOL's view said...

?? And I read this while eating lunch - soup of some noodle description. Remind me never to do that again.....

Anonymous said...


So hilarious.

Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

you know, the next time i go wine tasting, i'm going to sniff the glass, hold it up to the light, swish it around a little bit, and then say "Hmmm. Tastes of cement and anus."

Ted said...

Designer Gruel? Wolgang's got some competition. How about these lovin' canfuls:

Southern Delight: chicken, catfish, crawfish, brown rice, vegetable medley
Thanksgiving Day Dinner: turkey, gravy, vegetable medley
California Roll: salmon, tuna, crab, brown rice, vegetable medley
New England Boil: whitefish, sardine, lobster, crab, shrimp
Grammy's Pot Pie: chicken, gravy, vegetable medley
Cowboy Cookout: beefy, gravy, vegetable medley

Just check the pet food aisle, or go to Merrick Pet Care online. The strumming geetar and farm animal noises alone make it worth a visit.

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LadyFi said...

Anyone with babies will tell you that spaghetti milkshake has been available for years... only it's put into small kiddie-sized jars and labelled as baby food.

You can also get other wonderful varieties like: salmon milkshake, pasta and spinach milkshake and so on...

JaniceO said...

OK, so I know this is EONS later since the original post was written but then I only discovered birdmonster a week ago (and 4 hrs but who's counting?) and I have to say, this is the most hilarious of the postings yet since I started reading them (sporadically but chronologically in reverse). And yeah, LadyFi is right, it's baby food. Or food for the edentulous of any age.