Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Sicilian Style Spaghetti - With Lots of Meat and Garlic
I shall never look at Spaghetti the same way again.
Not after reading Lily Pryor's La Cucina : A Novel of Rapture, for the Cook the Books Novel Book Club's challenge this month.
You see, Spaghetti for the Filipinos is a dish for kids. This is a common dish in children's parties. The Filipino version is sweet style with sliced hotdogs and lots of sauce. And the kids really love it!
However, the La Cucina book is definitely R rated - definitely not for kids.
The book is sensual, sexy, sensous, earthy, passionate, emotional, intense, livid. Lily Prior is a very good writer. She writes with such passionate words that the reader cannot help but "feel" the book. She brings you to intense emotional highs and lows, so exciting that you cannot put the book down. You will be eager to know what happens next...
However, I think this book is for mature women (and men) who understands that this is pure fiction. While reading the book, you feel the excitement of the character Rosa, her ups and downs, her experiences, her world of reality and fantasy. That is how you suspend your disbelief and enjoy the book. After reading the book, you go back to the real world, your real kitchen, real family, real life; then you start to think as you go back to the details of the book, is that how real people in Italy live? Is that how they behave? Do all the values, and morals presented in the book the same as the values people in Italy have? Are the mafias really like that? Is the Italian farm life really like that? Is that really their way of life? Is that how they really cook?
I cannot argue with the cooking part. We, who love food, do cook with the passion and intensity as Rosa does. What about the others? I am a foreigner peeking inside a part of Italian culture. However, where do I draw the line between fantasy and reality? Wouldn't my perception of Italy be influenced by the pictures and scenes of the book?
I believe that writers have an obligation to the world and to the next generation. What picture of reality do you present to your readers? Look at the television. They present violent and immoral stories. They aim to sell, to titillate. They present extreme situations and extreme stories. Such that the next generation think it is normal to be violent and ammoral. Same thing with literature. A writer presents a sensual picture, you associate it with the culture. Of course, we can always argue that readers know this is fiction. But even fiction has some basis in reality, unless the setting is in the outer space or in another dimension.
I believe that writers should not just titillate the senses in order to sell their books. If the writers present the idea that it is justified for this person to kill his own son just for what? and that a husband (or wife) cavorting with the farm helper is a common occurrence, then people would get desensitized to immorality as well. Writers should present the good side of the real world. If the readers feel that the world is right and good, they would also follow and do right and good. The good part is the author was able to present the consequences suffered by those people.
I know that sounds lame and old fashioned. But that is the only way to make this world a better place. Because of television and mass media, the world had gone violent and immoral. Families have become dysfunctional. Is this the right way to go? This is not an attack on the book. I confess I enjoyed reading the book myself and my imagination had gone wild with the scenes and numerous edible possibilities. But then we have to qualify that this book is for mature readers only.
I confess that if not for the Book Club, I would not read this book. This type of novel is not in my usual reading list. I apologize if that came out as snotty. It is just that because of the demands and pressures of my job(s), I do not usually have time to read books simply to enjoy them! Thanks to the Cook the Books, I got to experience a new kind of literature.
I finished the book in one sitting - probably two to three hours. This book is a light read. Have I let out a secret? I'm a nerd. Specifically a book-nerd. I love books. I devour them. I would want my kids to have the same passion. I apologize if this post became somewhat of a long sermon. My kids read my blog. Their friends and classmates read my blog. I have an obligation to show them what is the right way to go.
As for the challenge, I cooked the spaghetti that L'Inglese cooked for Rosa at his house. Do you remember the scene? That is why I cannot look at Spaghetti as a kids' meal anymore. He made it with lots of garlic and meat, just like the way Rosa taught him. I would love to make the oysters, but I do not know how to shuck fresh oysters. :) I would love to complete the menu with veal (We do not have veal meat accessible here.) and the lovely dessert...
I used the homemade pasta that I made. That is why I have "flat" spaghetti instead of the regular round noodles. Recipe and how to make your own pasta here.
For the sauce:
4 T olive oil
5 tomatoes, chopped
2 heads garlic, peeled, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
1/2 Kilo lean ground beef
16 oz tomato sauce
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
3 T sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, grated
1. Heat up the olive oil in a deep pan. Saute the onions until caramelized. Saute the garlic until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and let it cook for a while until soft and juices come out.
2. Add in the ground meat. Cook until it changes color and fully done. Add in the tomato sauce and sugar (if using). When the sauce boils, add in the bell peppers and basil. Cook for a while. Adjust seasoning to taste.
3. To serve, top the sauce over cooked pasta. Grate parmesan cheese on top.
Also sharing this homemade pasta dish with the Presto Pasta Nights community, headed by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. This week's host is Marye of the delicious Baking Delights. To see last week's delicious pasta dishes, do check out the round up here.