Thursday, September 18, 2014

About pasta and fast food

We don't see many outlets proposing fast pasta dishes around where we live. Restaurants are different. I'm talking about fast food outlets. The other day, we were at a food court, stuffing our face with some great belgian waffles topped with cream and ice cream, with a very hot coffee (sigh!) and we were having a look around us, at the other food outlets. There used to be an outlet selling pasta in this food court. The place did not live long. I had once tried their pasta. If I remember well, it was on one of our various Top Gear nights and I wanted to eat pasta. Pasta goes well with just about any occasion; deal with it. And so, before embarking on our Top Gear night, we went to that place and I ordered a tagliatelle with red sauce and chicken. It was OK. The sauce was creamy when hot and it beautifully tangled with the tagliatelle to give it just the right amount of slip. And then things got cold. I ended up with a sticky, dry tagliatelle with some residue of red sauce on it and some chicken. Everything fell apart. It's like the sauce and chicken and tagliatelle were in a beautiful relationship at first, when things were hot and then suddenly everyone has decided to go their way. The tagliatelle had absorbed the life out of the sauce and the chicken was playing solo. Well, that's how I felt anyway. Am I too passionate about pasta?

So yes, coming back to our issue. Why is it so hard to deliver good pasta dishes when you're a fast food outlet?

If you are one of those people who often make pasta dishes (and I know you are) you would know that making pasta is a very time-compelling task. You might look cozy doing it but in your head you are not. You are thinking about the exact moment to put your pasta to boil and how much time to cook your sauce so that the sauce is ready at the exact time when your pasta is boiled al dente so that you can blend the two together and create a miracle. You have to think about your family, you have to start shrieking at them to get ready to eat, to come and fetch their plate. To eat that damn pasta as if it were a nuclear time bomb. But in fact it is a nuclear time bomb. A very vicious one at it. If your sauce is not liquid enough, it would absorb that darn thing in less time that it takes to say "bon appetit".

Now let's transpose this situation to a fast food outlet. You see where the problem lies? Add to that the fact that customers will wander around and come fetch their food much much later after it was prepared. You can't just compel your customers to eat their pasta right away. Appropriate containers to hold the sauce are sparse. You might serve the sauce and pasta separately but both elements would cool much faster - a larger volume takes less time to cool. Pre-boiled pasta is a crime against Italy. You might bank on pasta salads solely. But really, who would like to eat pasta salad so much? Am I biased here? Think about the unctuous velvety texture of some tomato sauce and cream on a fresh boiled pasta and this served hot with a touch of basil and some parmesan. Heaven.

So yeah, if you are looking for a good pasta, either make it at home or go to a good restaurant. 

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