Call Your Doctor from Paradise

September 30, 2010

Those of us who care ought for our health do love the noble anchovy. A small creature indeed but so packed with piscine potential it should rank higher than the better known and welcomed sardine. But instead it languishes as a jokey addition in pizza parlors and in hard to find micro cans on unreachable shelves at Safeway.

The cognoscenti of the fishy world know and love the anchovy because it is the heart and soul of that Prince of pasta dishes, aglio e olio con anchovy, that salt hit, that cholesterol source, that garlic festival of a dish. A dish that has the power to repel borders, and the property of fusing two people into a pungent aromatic conspiracy. Rather like the policy of nuclear deterrence where mutual destruction is assured, so the joint consumers of this dish are at an odiferous brink. Not for the genuinely weak hearted, adipose averse, sodium refugees and preferees of light garnish, this dish is simple to make, hideous to behold, hazardous to many and best of all unutterably delicious. Not only this, but by the simple addition of the humble but blessed tomato becomes “Putanesca”; a dish with a very bad name but long history of efficient nutrition and eating pleasure.

 So here follows a recipe that worships at the respective altars of Farina, Goddess of Bread and Pasta; Bacchus, God of Wine; Alium, God of Garlic; and my own favorite, Butyria, Goddess of Butter.

Whilst you are chilling two bottles of the very best Pinot Grigio that you can afford, open two or three cans of our primary reagent. (Make sure that you do not use the variety that contains capers). Gaze upon their hairy bodies as they recline in their oleaginous coffin. Drain that charged liquid into a shallow pan, and place the beached corpses aside for the moment. Open the first bottle of wine, pour a generous glass, and take a similar sized draught.

 With your sharpest knife, finely, and I mean finely, chop eight large cloves of good garlic. Scrape the garlic into the oil, disperse and let it stand whilst you bake a loaf of your favorite bread, finish your wine, and listen to something by Faure that is not his Requiem. When you remove your loaf from the oven, tear off a large piece and dip a corner into the oil-garlic mix. Eat. Sigh.

 Put up a large pan of water; add no salt but two tablespoons of oil. As you wait for this to boil start a very gentle flame under your garlic. Take a piece of butter that would offend your Doctor and place it very deliberately in the oil. Add a quarter cup of oil to the pan. As it begins to heat up stand close to the pan and breathe. Call your lover into the Kitchen, take another piece of bread, dip it into the oil and place it on their lips. Pour some more wine. Drink some. Change from Faure to Brubeck, or Miles Davis. Before the garlic begins to brown, take the noble fish, and saying some blessing or words of committal, add them to the butter/oil/garlic. As the bodies of the Anchovies dissolve reflect on their short but worthy lives and stir them into oblivion for 5-7 minutes. Your water is now boiling and you must cook your thin spaghetti “al dente”, quickly drain it, and toss it with a little oil. Open the second bottle of wine.

 On plates that you warmed in the cooling bread oven, place one third of the pasta. Spoon the sauce from the pan onto the pasta and rush to table. Sprinkle your pasta with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Light the candle on your table, say your grace, look your lover directly in the eye, eat, drink your wine, and become lost in the intensity of the flavor. Get the last third of the pasta, add more sauce and eat. Lavishly butter some of your bread and wipe your plate. Have an apple for desert, knowing that it won’t make any difference.

 Call your Doctor and tell him what you did. But you will be calling from Paradise, with happy Gods all around.

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