Thanks to my mom, Julia Childes and chemistry I know a little something about cooking pasta. I know at least two very helpful tips….unfortunately, and to the dismay of the aforementioned mentors as well as my family I’m sure, I do not make adequate use of these tips. That will not prevent me from sharing my insight with you of course. I have been dwelling on these concepts for a few days now and feel compelled to share them, even though I’m not completely sure where this will go…..
When it comes to cooking pasta I tend to make two reoccurring mistakes, one being undercooking it and the other being the messy lava like flow that occurs when I allow the pot to boil over. Since it is the later which makes the bigger mess, I will address it first.
Cooking pasta is one of the more basic of culinary skills, second only to boiling an egg I suppose, and yet I seldom find success. After I submerge my dry pasta into a pot of boiling water on my stove I often turn my attention to other aspects of the meal. That is when it happens….soon a small swell of whitish, starchy foam oozes over the edges of the pot onto the burner and stove. I know, I know…place a wooden spoon on the pot’s edge, stir it more frequently, reduce the heat….there are many ways to stop or prevent such a disaster I’m sure. It’s not that I don’t know how to prevent it; I just never think to do so until it is already bubbling over like some kind of witches brew.
I know water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. I know I need to cook my pasta around this temperature. I also know, thanks to my chemistry class, that at such temperatures the pasta’s starch will begin to break down. It is this starchy substance which adheres to the water as it begins to boil and roll, producing the messy overflow. I could reduce the heat, but then how will my pasta cook???? Well here is the trick, add SALT. Yep, salt. Seems this simple little crystalline substance has the ability to increase the temperature of water’s boiling point. Sooooooo my water can reach 100C, and sufficiently cook my pasta, and never actually boil or bubble over. Here is the point I need you to keep in mind until the end of this entry: Adding SALT allows the pasta the best time and conditions to become ready to serve.
This brings me to the second issue, being sure the pasta is done. There is nothing enjoyable about sitting down to what looks like a nice spaghetti meal. You prepare to allow the soft noodles to work the sauce past your taste buds only to be met with the stiff chewiness of under cooked pasta. I really enjoy the remedy for this mistake! Recall I mentioned the cooking pasta releasing starches? Well it seems that “starch” makes the pasta sticky. Cooks tell us that we can test for doneness of starchy noodles such as spaghetti by flinging a noodle against the wall. If it sticks, it’s ready.
I think that would make a great bumper sticker, “If It Sticks, It’s Ready”. It is true. When our son finally found his life calling and began setting and keeping his goals, it was an indicator he was “ready”. I shudder to think of the total that would result if we added up all the pounds I have lost and then put back on over the years. I am only able to “stick” with a healthier life style when I am truly “ready”. Without a doubt there is a season where we all are trying to reach a place of “ready to stick” in terms of resolutions or life goals. This is where the other point I mentioned earlier comes in.
Mark 9:50 Christ tells his disciples, “Salt is good; if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Christ’s followers are to be permeated with this preserving power, to influence the world for good. We are called to help provide an environment which allows for others to get to the place of “ready to serve”.
So, two things….One: be aware of our ability to be SALT to others who need time, love, encouragement or grace so that they will be able to find themselves “ready to serve” without boiling over.
Two: If you wonder if you, or someone you know or love, are truly ready to take the next step, go a new direction or make a change, just “toss it against the wall” step out, step up, give it a try…. If It Sticks, it’s Ready!