I thought I might clean the legs of my couch today. I’m trying to write a bear of a play at the moment, and it’s wrestled me to the ground and is sitting on my chest playing uncle and winning. Yesterday, I filled out insurance forms and took out the recycling. I spent two weeks in bar in Italy in September. I arrived every morning at half past six for coffee and wrote until lunch. At one, I came back for a popsicle and wrote until dinner. I had to buy another notebook. When I came home and read what I wrote I thought, “this is what it must be like if you push through the ozone layer and get into the silent night of the universe with nothing to do but float, no obvious order to anything floating past you, the knowledge of black holes, and random trash from space ships and satellites.” It is lost. This is another reason, I cook.
I have someone whom I want to cook for, a distant star that feels millions of light years away, but out there. So I do that. I took the train to Essex Street Market made my way to the meat market and got a pound of ground beef and a chicken that should have been sent home in a car service that sent a Cadillac for what I paid for it. I try not to get involved in a conversation about it at the cash register, because it end’s with my mother rising from the dead and using my mouth to get the last word in. I move over to the fruit stall and pick up persimmons, soft as pillows and dark green black cabbage and heads of garlic.
You can take days to make a meat sauce, or you can hustle one up in as long as it takes to get the pasta cooked. Dice an onion as small as you can get it and let if fall into the pan with a good spill of olive oil. Add three uncut cloves of garlic that you peel by giving them a gentle bang with the flat of the knife. Add a bundle of fresh sage and rosemary and a sprinkle of salt. Let that go until the onion is so delicious you can barely stand it. Add your meat, breaking it up as it cooks through. Season it with a little more salt and freshly ground pepper. Go light on the pepper. When the meat is cooked through, tilt the pan to get the fat to one side. Blot that with a paper towel, so that it’s nearly gone. Add a can of San Marzano tomatoes that have been pureed with an immersion blender. You can break them up with your hands, but I like it better when they are completely smooth. Avoid buying crushed tomatoes. They taste like aluminum. Simmer the tomatoes until the sauce looks like you can’t tell one thing from another. There will be no more separation of meat/tomato/onion. They are like one. Add water if you have to. You don’t want it to be so thick so that there is no movement when you slide your spoon around it. Taste it. It might need a little sugar or salt. Finish it with a stream of best olive oil. Strain your pasta before it’s quite done. Remove some of the sauce from the pan, in case you don’t need all of it. Drop the pasta directly into the sauce pan, reserving some of the pasta water. Stir, adding pasta water as needed, bit by bit, to make a satiny sauce. Shower with parm and serve.