by Dolores de Luce

Two of the 3 ingredients that go into making pasta are flour and water. These are the same ingredients we used to make paste for my first grade art projects. Pasta, the dish and the word were popularized on the nouvelle food scene in the 80's. Up until then Asians called it noodles but Italians called it macaronie, spagetti, linguini, fettuccini, spagatini, cappelini, rigatoni, #1 , penne, ziti, ravioli, manicotti, cannelloni, lasagna, enoughi, vusilli, orzo, vermicelli, risotto, and pastina. These are just some of the terms of endearment for the wonder food that has been known to keep a broken heart mended.

I was weaned directly off formula straight to my fist solid food, pastina, the baby pasta. Spaghetti days in our house were always Wednesdays and Sundays, but we managed to have it almost everyday because there were always the leftovers. Grandma would throw the cold spaghetti into a frying pan with about a 1/2-gallon of olive oil to heat it up. That was my favorite lunch. I even liked it cold straight from the frig. And on other days, many lunches were of the educational variety when I got to have alphabet macaroni in my soup. No matter what went wrong in my childhood, no matter how hurt or isolated I felt, the one ritual that always united me with the others of my tribe was the sacrament of pasta or macaroni, as we called it in the 50's.

Sitting around that dinner table directly to my father's right, across from mom and next to sis and grandma at the opposite end of the table from her son, I remember all the loud voices crying to be heard over one another as everyone talked and no one listened. But all was well as soon as the huge bowl was passed in front of me and I partook of the scared white tubular substance. I loved the river of red sauce as it formed a little pool in the center of my plate, a place to rest the meatballs. Indians passing the peace pipe had nothing on me when I was handed that metal grater with the big hunk of Parmesan and I got to grate the cheese over my own plate and as much as I liked, I knew I belonged. This scared rite was precious, a ritual far more pleasant and tasted better then Holy Communion and I didn't have to get on my knees to enjoy it. It made me feel better then the church ever could and helped to drown the sins and sorrows of my parents and their parents before them. The more I partook of this sacrament the more I could bury the guilt and shame the church and my family heaped onto my plate.

While helping mom pick parsley and basil for the sauce, I listened at nauseous to the tales of the unfortunate girls in Italy that would sooner drown themselves in a well before bringing any disgrace upon their families. These lessons of the perils of losing one's virginity were little horror stories that were meant to scare me chaste. Along with the cooking lessons, mom told me other secrets only when dad and grandma weren't around, about her own mother-in -law and her sin. For the most part the dirty secret about grandma was left at the bottom of the pot where the sauce would sometimes stick but I had heard enough to know that if Grandma had abided by the rules, none of us would be here today. Two generations of Italian Americans flushed down a well. But oh that red aromatic gravy made from those fresh jersey tomatoes that grew in my back yard made it all better and runs still deep in my veins.

Spaghetti marinara with a small green salad on the side makes up the colors of the Italian flag. It's my heritage; it's mama's homemade love, boiled, backed or fried and always orgasmic, delicious and filling. Far more filling then the awkward attempts at finding love in the front seat of Auggie Matterazzo's 63' T-Bird. Yes oh sooo filling and it is what and who I believe I am. Pasta keeps me glued to that image of myself, the round, Rubinesc, good peasant woman with grape stained feet and garlic scented fingers, a sprinkling of white flour on her cheeks and gravy stains on her apron. A woman who waits patiently in the kitchen with open arms in the hopes that maybe her man will show a little gratitude by lifting her apron and filling her secret need for passion right their on the kitchen table. And after dessert, no matter what the menu, she'd never dream of asking him to help with the dishes.

My Italian sole brother, Tommy Pace shared our favorite mutual turn ons. The sightings of big provolone and salamis hanging from the deli windows as we strolled through little Italy in San Francisco or New York to seek our favorite feeding dens. When our compulsive eating was out of control in the 80's we purchased the new wonder drug, STARCH BLOCKERS. They were all the rage and the magic bullet that claimed that you could eat all the starchy food you wanted without putting on an once. We downed several pills before each feast laughing, knowing it was too good to be true but just in case it worked we took plenty. It was fun to pretend then and life was always a party with Tommy and pasta and every event was a reason to celebrate, i.e. eat. Arrabiatta after my abortion, Ziti and sausages after a show closed and cannelloni after a good find at the Purple Heart Thrift store. He'd say "Girlfriend, we have so much starch stored in our bodies that when we die they can sell our corpses to the Golden Grain Company for recycling." That same humor carried him through to his painful and untimely death. One of the most ironic things was that like all the other aide's victims I have known, he was the only one who never lost any weight. Go figure. From his deathbed, when he couldn't eat a bite he planned menus and I ate enough for the two of us. And when it was finally time for him to let go of his body all that paste in his system could not glue him to this planet or to me. And all the paste in every grain ever grown on the face of this earth could not keep my heart from breaking.

Today I cannot imaging sitting at a table with my family and not partaking of holy pasta, even though I have since come to believe that this very substance has become my enemy. It never affected grandma like that. She ate white bread and pasta three times a day. Walked miles every day and lived an energetic full life until she was 85. But many others in my family did suffer and die from unset diabetes. Could it be this wonderful contribution of my culture is the culprit? Whenever I eat pasta now I keep eating it until by belly swells to the proportions of a full term pregnancy and then I need to take an immediate nap/coma and upon awaking, I always require a dessert. Why can't I be like others who find pasta to be good for them because it sure has been good to me? Why couldn't I have the metabolism of Martina Natalova could claims she eats pasta three times a day and never gains an once. Oh why wasn't I born a tall blond Swede then all I'd have to do was avoid walking by open windows.