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  • Last modified 109 days ago (June 5, 2019)

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Another Day in the Country

Adding pasta
to the melting pot

© Another Day in the Country

The chickens and I are having pasta salad for lunch. We all like it. It seems impossible for me to fix a pasta salad for only two. There’s always leftovers, and that’s where the chickens come into the picture.

No matter how hard I try to put less pasta in the boiling water, it always seems to be such a little bit, and I add another shake of the box.

Rotini — that’s the pasta that I like best. My salad is filled with fresh carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — whatever is in the garden or the refrigerator. Then I season it with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper, maybe a little fresh dill or some marinated artichoke hearts.

“And don’t forget the olives,” my sister adds.

I give thanks for those Italian immigrants who brought curly rotini pasta to the United States.

We Germans have had noodles of one stripe or another, but ours are flat or spoon-cut dumplings tossed into boiling water or pockets of dough filled with cottage cheese and bread crumbs.

Italian noodles have such varied shapes — long and thin spaghetti, round and hollow for stuffing, and little bow tie shapes for capturing sauce. Aren’t we lucky to have all these variations of food introduced by the cultures melting into our pot?

Today’s pasta salad is left over from yesterday’s lunch. I never think it is quite as good the second time around, but the chickens don’t mind. While they eat the veggies, they like the pasta best. They think it’s worms, and I don’t disabuse them of their theory.

Reggie the rooster called to the hens, all excited, when I delivered dinner. He was saying something like “pasta salad” but I couldn’t tell for sure. For sure, he said, “Come and get it!” acting like he had delivered it himself and really had something to crow about.

I enjoy acknowledging all the cultures that have influenced my personal cuisine. My friend Renie, who’d lived for a time in Cyprus, introduced me to Middle Eastern food with pocket bread, humus, yogurt, and tabbouleh salad. Those dishes became part of our regular menu.

When we came back to Kansas after living so many years in California, I was shocked to find a tabbouleh salad at one of the parish hall potlucks right in there with all the Jell-O salads.

“In Ramona?” I said, “Who made this?”

It was my friend Yvonne, whose tastes, like mine, roam far and wide. I’d met a kindred spirit.

Some 30 years ago, when my son-in-law, Richard, came into our lives, I got acquainted with Korean food.

I’ve learned to enjoy — most of it — and got so hungry for it that I ordered myself a Korean cookbook. It isn’t that there aren’t Korean restaurants in Kansas; it’s that I don’t know anyone who wants to go with me.

For this reason, I look forward to my California visits because I know we will probably go to a Korean restaurant on my way from the airport to Napa Valley.

I always order the same thing, something called bibimbap. I tried making this at home — even got the iron pot that it’s cooked in — but it’s not the same. I don’t have the variety of seasonings around my kitchen that a real Korean cook has at her disposal. So it’s the restaurant for me!

Bibimbap is a small pot of cooked rice that is baked briefly in a very hot oven, forming a crust around the outside edges. A variety of Korean vegetables are added on top, and a raw egg is dropped in the middle of it. The heat of the rice cooks the egg if you take your chopsticks and stir the egg through the rice. Add some seasoning like hoisin sauce, Sriracha hot chili sauce, or soy sauce and enjoy!

When the Vietnamese came to Kansas they brought their style of noodle bowls. I first ate pho, a noodle dish in tasty broth, in Hawaii. Now you find it in Salina.

I remember going to the market in Honolulu with my daughter (who’d already become a convert to Asian cuisine) to have pho. I didn’t know what it was called but loved it.

If you enjoy beef, it comes with the thinest slices of beef you’ve ever seen. They cook immediately when they hit the hot broth.

I love adding hot pepper slices, fresh basil, bean sprouts, and lime, and then having a slurping good lunch!

Whlle I love my grandma’s German noodle soup with butter glace (dumplings made with breadcrumbs, egg, and butter) I’d have missed something if I’d never added Vietnamese pho to my list of favorite dishes.

All this talk of different foods got me to thinking about immigrants and their integration into our society in America.

Whether it’s food or the people who invented it — coming to appreciate an unfamiliar culture takes some bravery, for those of us who’ve spent our lives, not just a few days, in the country

You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and try — more than once.

Last modified June 5, 2019

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