It’s 8:30pm. You had a long day at work / you just got back from a tough run / insert the reason you’re tired and haven’t already eaten and might cry if you don’t get something delicious in your belly soon. What do you? Do you order in and wait half an hour or more for delivery? Do you break open the little blue box of mac and cheese? No, of course not! You grab a few cloves of garlic and spend 15 easy minutes making rich, velvety spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.
Years ago my aunt gave me a recipe for roasted tomato soup that called for beefsteak tomatoes, which, truly, are only available in good form in the summer. I made it several times, because, who are we kidding? I can eat soup on a hot day. Especially if it’s tomato soup. It’s a weird thing I picked up from my mentor at an internship eons ago: great soup (say, with a bagel) was filling – and cheap. It became a ritual. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.
After I left that organization I needed to recreate the soups that got me through the simultaneous reaffirming and heartbreaking work (and gave me super human rights powers?), and this recipe, which I did only make in the summers, was spot-on. But the heat from the oven, and then the stovetop, was generally intolerable, so after a while that hand-written recipe left the rotation, relegated to the inner folds of my recipe binder, several pages down from two different summer-y panzanellas and nestled between two decidedly wintry soups.
If a long distance runner tells you part of the reason she runs isn’t so she can stuff her face with pasta, she’s lying to you. True, most of it is the challenge, the endorphins, the yearning to be better than you were yesterday. But for many of us, we run so we can eat. And when you’re training for a marathon, you’re hungry. All. the. time. It took me a while to be okay with eating a second lunch – which follows brunch, which follows a very long run, which follows breakfast. I swear, though, not everything I eat is a pastry or a muffin or a biscuit – I also eat fruit and salads and proteins and potatoes rich with vitamin C. These are the things I crave after a 20-mile run. But before? Give me bowls of pasta. Lemon. Garlic. Tomatoes. Peppers. Whatever. As long as it envelops that perfect pod of a simple carb, it’s what I want to fuel me through those grueling miles.
We all grow up eating the stuff, though for many kids, like yours truly, many moons ago, we want it with butter. Or cheese – from a little blue box. We were the pain-in-the-ass kids who only knew tomatoes if they were in the form of basically orange, tangy water with little o’s swimming around. But once we learned how beautiful that fruit was? Forget it. I watched my mom make a bolognese hundreds of times growing up, but never made a basic sauce until I was 20, kind of poor, and living with an Italian-American roommate in Paris. On our first night in our apartment together, she made her grandmother’s recipe: slow cooked, fresh tomatoes, with garlic, onion, and raisins, to cut the acidity and add sweetness. My life would never be the same.