Growing up, I've never had much of an affinity for Italian food. Perhaps it was just an acquired tasted, or perhaps Hawai'i wasn't a top producer of quality Italian food (shocker). Either way, since my relocation to New York, I have more than learned to love Italian food- I've actually emotionally become an old Italian grandmother trying to feed everyone in sight. Speaking of grandmothers, I have recently found myself in the middle of bumblefuck South Dakota. Can you guess what I cooked up for her on my first day there? ...Italian!
I found myself in a bit of a rut, though. For anyone not familiar with people from the midwest, about 95% of them lack any tastebuds. The concept of "steak and potatoes" originated here.. and I don't expect they're talking about seasoned fillet mignon or herb encrusted potatoes. I literally mean they're the blandest of the bland.
To solve my dilemma, I knew I had to resort to the basics. Thinking that my midwesterner grandmother (who is full German, by the way) would know what penne alla vodka or baked ziti was, would practically be unheard of. Instead, I suppose basic conventional spaghetti and meat sauce will do... (I really do hate dumbing my cooking talents down).
Just because I had to restrain my skills and be forced to cook this mundane meal didn't mean I couldn't make it pretty and shit.
But alas- once you dig your fork into the spaghetti, all the prettiness subsides. What is left is an intermingled pile of Italian deliciousness. Even with the fact that all extra spices were subdued (half the amount of garlic, no inclusion of pepper or pepper flakes, etc.), the meat sauce turned out surprisingly delicious (as well as Italian-grandmother approved).
Now, I may never get the chance to be the Italian grandmother I pretend to be, but I'm damn near close. Give me a few years to catch up, and I'll be giving them a run for their money.