Al Dente? Who the hell is he? LOL! No, he’s not a person. He’s a thing. Al dente is actually Italian. It means “this bites.” (Disclaimer: This is a guess. I was too lazy to google. –Ed.)
In honor of my wife asking me to think about what I’ve learned during ten years of marriage (our anniversary is next week) I thought really hard and remembered spaghetti.
That’s using the old noodle!
My wife, although technically not a “chef,” is nonetheless extremely accomplished and talented in the kitchen. She really knows how to cook. Naturally this is both good and bad. Good in the sense that there are a lot of good eats. Bad in the sense that every meal dirties every pot, pan and kitchen implement in the house.
It’s bad in one other small way. It’s such a slight of a trifle that it’s almost not worth mentioning. Almost.
Every single thing I do is wrong. In the kitchen, I mean.
So there I was this one time making spaghetti. That means I had dumped some packaged noodles in a pot of boiling water. To me that’s “cooking.”
As was often my wont, when the timer went off I picked up the pot and dumped the noodles in a colander in the sink.
My wife saw. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled.
Oh shit. Little Tommy in trouble.
It turns out I was cooking the pasta the wrong way. How the hell was I supposed to know? I had been cooking pasta this way my whole life. As I tried to explain to my wife, no one had ever been killed from cooking pasta this way and dinner was always delicious.
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger patiently explaining “it’s not a tumor!” to a child in kindergarten, my wife introduced to me to the concept of “al dente.” She took a fork, pulled out a strand of spaghetti and bit. With her teeth.
Over time I’ve seen this process repeated. Sometimes she pronounces, “This spaghetti is done.” Or, on other occasions, “This needs a bit more.” I think it’s somehow astrological, based on the positions of the planets or something.
I’m pretty sure this whole thing was invented to confuse me and make me feel small. I’ve never noticed any difference in any of it. But, to my wife, it’s important. Very important. Important enough to come after me with a wooden spoon.
She was incredulous. What exactly, she demanded, were my methods? How did I know if spaghetti was done before we’d met?
My procedure was simple. Boil a pot of water. Meanwhile read the label for the cooking times. If the package said “7 to 11 minutes” simply set the timer on 11, the largest number. Then I’d cook noodles until the timer went off. Voila! Dump in sink. Dinner is served.
How was I to know this would make me the kitchen barbarian?
She was equally amazed when I pulled the red wine out of the refrigerator but that’s another story.
I’ve since been relegated to soux chef and busboy duties and left to marinara in my own juices.