Thursday, September 22, 2016

a lot of bologna

It is Italian night at the house with no name.

Well, what passes for Italian in my cultural milieu.

When I was a mere bambino, I believe my first exposure to spaghetti was out of a Franco-American can. It never occurred to me then that a brand name extolling its roots in Joan of Arcville was a misappellation. But, when you are eating mushy pasta from a can, its provenance seldom pops to mind.

At some point, my mother began whipping up her version of spaghetti with meat sauce. It was a staple in our house -- especially when my father would rev it up with jalapeño peppers and Bandon extra sharp cheese.

There is a classification of food that is eccentric to all of us -- potato salad, chili, spaghetti, pizza, tacos. If we grew up on it, we think that is how each dish should taste. No matter how dreadful it is.

For years, if I requested spaghetti, I meant spaghetti with meat sauce. The version I developed personally carried no other descriptor than "spaghetti." Just "spaghetti."

I suspect it was in England that I first encountered the name "spaghetti bolognese." It was essentially the same spaghetti with meat sauce I ate as a child. In fact, that is what my English friend, Dr. Robert Wells, called it -- children's spaghetti.

When I returned to The States, I noticed the "bolognese" adjective on a number of menus in spendier Italian restaurants. There is nothing like a little foreign language to pad prices. By the time I moved to Mexico, even Denny's was using the term.

And it appears here in Mexico, as well -- on the tourist menus. There is a heavy Canadian influence in this town. "Bolognese" most likely jumped the Atlantic from England, and then made its way south in the palates of temporary and permanent immigrants.

That is what I am cooking up. Spaghetti in red meat sauce. But it is not "bolognese." Let me come back to that in a minute.

My blogger pal Felipe commented the other day on the peso exchange rate for US dollars. It is true if you are buying pesos here with Benjamins, you are getting a good deal.

However, I told Felipe that exports from The States continue to be a financial wash. I still pay the dollar equivalent for American imports. He responded: "So you’re right where you’ve long been, especially food-wise, which is the majority of imported goods for you, I’m thinking."

On that point, he is not absolutely correct. I suspect I buy more imported food items than most people in my neighborhood. But, not very much from The States.

Look at the photograph at the top of this essay. All of the vegetables, the chopped meat (not to be called hamburger -- a perfect topic for a future essay), and most of the herbs, spices, and salsas are Mexican products. The spaghetti and the pepper are from Italy. The olive oil is from Spain. The wine (the base of my spaghetti sauce) is usually from Chile -- this time it is from California. The remainder of the herbs, and the tomato paste are from The States.

Overall, it is quite an international affair. One of the wonders of trade globalization.

But what it is not is "bolognese" -- in the style of Bologna. All of those tomatoes and the olive oil unmasks the fraud.

Classical Italian cuisine has a great divide. The north relies on butter and cream for its dishes. The south is the land of olive oil and tomatoes. I am certain you will not be surprised if I tell you Bologna is in northern Italy.

If you order spaghetti bolognese in Bologna, do not expect anything that resembles what came out of those Franco-American cans. In fact, you will get nothing -- unless you are in a tourist restaurant.

However, it is possible that a plate of spaghetti with veal and a bechamel sauce will arrive, instead. If it does, dig in. You will find it far superior to any red meat sauce you have had on spaghetti -- unless you are still hooked on your mother's.

As for me and my house, we are having the red meat sauce I have developed over the past fifty years. And I intend to enjoy every last drop.

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