Beneath a canopy of white Christmas lights strewn handsomely and chivalrously around the wooden, mast-like beams of his rented carriage house behind an historic St. Louis home, my then-boyfriend, now-husband and I kneaded dough for pasta.
It was a week before Christmas, but Chris and I's chosen date to celebrate. Homemade pasta, we thought, what a tradition to begin--something we admitted with a hopeful demureness, owning that we had thought, so early, less than six months in, about there being another year of us for establishing such patterns of celebration.
It was the second of two remarkable culinary moments between us in this kitchen. This one harkened back to the first when he, like a suave golf pro, stood behind me, guiding my hands to slice a cucumber with his set of shiny, sharper-than-my-Target-brand Global knives. Over drinks before my slicing lesson, as it were, I shared my enthusiasm for fine cooking instruments, those particular knives especially, intending this divulgence as a major flirt but masquerading it as a coincidental, common appreciation.
But on this night, pasta night, it was me guiding our hands as we created a well in flour, stirred the eggs, olive oil and water cradled within it, and--in the muck of it--found ourselves elbow deep in flour, sure, but also the anticipation of a profession of love.
Instead, that night, we timidly professed our adoration of the marriage between butternut squash and a sumptuous sage-browned butter sauce. We, from our spots on the carpet, huddled around a grad-school grade (read: old and borrowed) coffee table to marvel at the thing we had made together. He would tell me later that he had kicked himself for not telling me he loved me that night, and I would confess that I wanted to kick him that night for the same reason--for not telling me he loved me. But those were early days. And still, through the flurry of flour and the kneading of dough and then the marveling at its results, we worked up a taste of love and tradition that now transports me back to this time and place more than three words would ever have been able.
It's the transportive power of this night that prompted me to write about it during a recent, fabulous, 2-day food writing workshop, and it was such a lovely trip back in time that we decided to immerse ourselves deep in flour once again this February 14 and I decided to share it with you, dear readers.
When you're being ambitious, you might as well be overly-ambitious, too, so in addition to making tagliatelle we also made the renowned Marcella Hazan's famed bolognese sauce. This sauce--like the process of making pasta, like the dance of falling in love--is slow and sweet and cooks, deliciously, at "the laziest of simmers." Patience, here, is a virtue.
It's a perfect recipe for a Sunday, or for whichever day of the week you move at your laziest pace. There's whole milk and white wine and a grating of fresh nutmeg to make you feel fancy. And then there's 3 hours or more of simmering that, while politely not chaining you to the stove, do summon you to be at home. The rewards for being there are simple but luxurious in their way: a constantly evolving and ever-deepening scent of tomato and wine and oh, there's that nutmeg, and then, when the aroma has become an almost-ordinary part of your world and you barely notice it anymore, the occasional bloop of the sauce's sluggish simmer reminds you it's still there.
It's in those moments of forgetting and then remembering that you might, as I did, wish you had somewhere else to be, just for a moment, so that you could return home again to breathe it in anew.
In love and bolognese, this story is the same.