“Who is the subject of most poems? Not the beloved. It is that hole.”
~ From Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson
Carson is talking about poetry, but that hold she is referring to is the subject of much more than poetry. It’s the subject of a lot of powerful prose. It’s the subject of much of our lives. It’s the human condition.
That hole is the reason we end up in therapists’ offices, on psychiatrists’ couches, on drugs, or alcohol. Or addicted to food, or pain, or sex, or gambling, or suffering. Or whatever else fills that hole – that big burning hole the represents something or someone missing.
Need, desire, unrequited love, yearning, missing – these are the things that create the great gaping holes in our hearts that leave us writhing and anguished or empty and searching. The heart-stopping power, the pleasure, and the pain of love and desire. Agony – and lack – these are the elements of that hole.
According to a recent New York Times Magazine article, fabulously titled, “The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson,” Carson met her partner, Currie, when he was working a book table at one of her readings. Carson brought Currie a plate of food.
I love this. Carson met her partner by bringing him food. Food – that common denominator – that universal expression of love and care and appreciation. Food like love, is a necessity – and at least temporarily – it fills that hole.
It seems like a good time for Pasta Puttanesca.
There are a lot of colourful stories about the origins behind the dish which originated in Naples. Puttana means prostitute in Italian. Some say that prostitutes could throw the dish together quickly between ‘visits’. Others say that prostitutes lured in Italian men with the rich, pungent aroma of the sauce. Regardless, I like the connection between love, sex, desire, aroma, and food.
This recipe is a conglomeration of the various Puttanesca recipes I’ve tried – they’re all much of a muchness. I like my Puttanesca light on the pasta and heavy on the tomatoes and olives. You can use canned tomatoes if you prefer. I use fresh cherry tomatoes when I have them. If I had fresh basil – I would have used some of that too. Basil season is coming…
Perfect Pasta Puttanesca
225 grams or about 8oz dry spaghetti or other noodles
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced into semi-circles
½ tsp red chilli pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 – 6 anchovy fillets, whole – go ahead and skip these if you’re vegetarian!
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup pitted olives, black, green or a mixture, coarsely chopped
1 tsp capers
Parmesan –coarsely grated
Set a large pan of salted water to boil for the pasta.
Meanwhile, sauté the olive oil, red onion and chilli flakes until the onion is soft and slightly caramelized – approximately 5 minutes.
About now would be a good time to add the pasta to the boiling water.
Add the garlic and anchovies and cook a minute or so before tossing in the tomatoes. Continue cooking for another couple of minutes – then add the olives and capers and a splash of wine or whatever you like, if the sauce is too dry. Cook on medium until the pasta is cooked – about another 5 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper.
Drain the pasta. Place it in a large serving bowl or skillet. Top with sauce and garnish with coarsely grated Parmesan.
Should serve 4 with a salad and a loaf of good bread.