Pasta Primavera…

17 Feb

I just spent a few hours at work this morning preparing what turned out to be 102 servings of beautiful pasta primavera.  This process consisted of cutting 48 pounds of fresh veggies, boiling (a lot of) whole wheat penne pasta to a perfect al dente, and chopping fresh herbs, etc.   I am passionate about cooking, among other things and as a meditation I do my damndest to put love into everything I cook.  This morning was no exception, as I cut the vegetables I took care to ensure some degree of uniformity and bitesizedness.  I wafted the scent of the herb infused olive oil several times because it pleases me to know that all of my senses went into creating something delicious and enjoyable even if those who eat it aren’t quite as knowing of my strange fascination as I.

Hopefully, you can imagine and even relate to my level of excitement regarding this food fascination.  Or, maybe I’m already a madman and no one is quite as eccentric and prone to simple excitement- in which case, please do not tell me, I prefer to be happily deluded into thinking that the whole world is happy to go to work and absolutely adores what they create with their own two hands.  So, after all of that as I tasted for the final time and accordingly approved the seasoning balance I asked my supervisor about the next step.  “What should I now do with this amazing pasta primavera?”

“Put it into bags and freeze it,”  was her reply.

I was depressed.

What is the point of that?  It was an order for a restaurant who buys from our production kitchen, freezes, then thaws and prepares individual servings for their unsuspecting guests.  In fact, the owners of said restaurant approached me a while ago for a potential menu consult and I remember discussing in the preliminary stages this very concept (concerning his lasagna and ziti dishes) and how I was, markedly in opposition to it.  Guests in a restaurant whose kitchen is of ample size shouldn’t get frozen crap served at their table, especially if they are under the impression that it is fresh.  They can stay home and prepare Stouffer’s for a third of the price and probably have more fun.  I didn’t know just what when we were discussing business, but something definitely seemed off about the whole operation and I left the ball in his court.  Luckily, I smelled the rat before I put them on retainer. Today it all added up- freezing lasagna is bad enough, but under no circumstances should a dish as elegant and classic as pasta primavera be frozen and reheated.  The idea of it still makes me cringe.

This occurrence combined with his flakiness and unwillingness to commit to a retainer so I could in turn do my work (I had a few freebie ideas he may or may not have implemented) all add up to a common problem I am noticing more and more especially in virgin restaurateurs but in lots of businesspeople of other avenues as well.  I am speaking of course of the desire to get something for nothing, or more accurately, for very little.  The profitable restaurants aren’t serving frozen bullshit that was prepared two weeks ago.  This is a frustrating concept to convey politely to an owner when you are sitting down for the first time and trying to discover where the less obvious kinks in their model exist.

Pasta Primavera by definition, should ALWAYS be served fresh.  It means “Springtime” in both Italian and Spanish.  And when it’s so easy, there’s no excuse except laziness not to.  All that is required are two burners, pasta which is parboiled and chilled at the beginning of the shift and veggies that you can even pre-slice if you want to.  Most of the time when you order pasta in a restaurant you are eating pasta which was par-cooked, chilled and blanched to order anyway.  The second burner is for sauteing.  Too easy.

As a food lover this insults me.  As a musician I feel I should write the ode to frozen pasta primavera- it would be about idiots trying to do something about which they have no idea just for profit.  As a future madman it made me want to destroy his freezer so he’d have no choice but to prepare the dish the way it should be.  As a scientist and observer it prompted me to imagine the poor excited cellulose running around in the plant cell walls, ecstatic that they would get to be part of something grand, beautiful and larger than themselves and that they are going to nourish someone who’ll appreciate them.  Poor little cellulose.  For the first time I realized why Chef Gordon Ramsey yells so much when he deals with clueless restaurant owners on Kitchen Nightmares.  I imagined the unknowing cellulose feeling betrayed as I pushed the cart containing 102 servings, individually bagged, into the freezer.  The waste of poly bakery bags is another story entirely.

I felt like Dr. Frankenstein watching his creation out on the ice, like murdering a friend.  I was Wilhelm at the controls of the gas chamber as his former neighbor Mr. Schwartz entered the phony shower with gaunt cheeks and ashen eyes, starving, denounced.  Depraved.  I felt like I might have lost a bit of my soul.  Forgive me, Cellulose…



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