Whenever I read another food blogger’s take on cacio e pepe–that is, spaghetti with cheese and black pepper–the rhythm is always the same. It’s always about how sometimes the simplest dish is the best measure of a cook’s ability. It’s about how the simplicity of the sauce lets you taste the pasta more fully. It’s about how the simple ingredients and simple preparation combine to make a lovely, thoroughly Italian plate of pasta.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this is a simple dish.
It’s also, at least in my world, the classic example of a sometimes food: a little guilt-inducing, best taken in small doses.
So yesterday was a pretty big deal. And I just about missed it.
I’d been thinking for ages about how to deal with September 11, 2011. The events of ten years ago have left a deep bruise-purple handprint on the psyche of an entire American generation–a generation of which I am part. But everything that could be said, has been said many times over. Anything I could say would be a whisper in an echo chamber.
So instead, I spent the day engrossed in the business of living. I woke up late and cuddled with my boyfriend; bought a purse at the local art and wine festival; played with my friend’s new kitten; watched The Matrix; ate sushi; packed for a business trip; slept. When I return from my trip, I’ll make myself a simple tuna and piquillo pepper sandwich, inspired by the one I ate on my last afternoon in Spain. I’ll call my parents. I’ll braid my hair.
Ten years ago, we questioned whether these little things might ever be so normal again. For all the intervening upheaval, they are. That’s no small triumph.
Bocadillo de Atún
Toast a slice of good crusty bread, and let it cool just until you can handle it without burning yourself. Drizzle the bread with olive oil. Cut a juicy ripe tomato in half, and rub the cut side all over one side of the bread. Spread some canned tuna on the tomato-rubbed bread, then drape a couple pieces of roasted red pepper over top. Lay two or three oil-packed anchovy fillets on top of the sandwich, then take a big bite and immediately make a mess of tuna and tomato all over your plate. So. Good.
It’s spring. The air is so downy and soft I could float away on it. The water in the San Francisco Bay is gemstone-blue and sequined with bits of sunlight. The trees are green again; the sky is cloudless and infinite. On days like these, I daydream about nothing but strawberries.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that robin redbreasts have strawberry bellies. The arrival of both bird and berry has always been my personal signal to get excited for warmer times. Even in Northern California, where we only have three seasons, the start of strawberry season is always occasion for at least a little joy.