Soggy Noodles?

My daughter likes her breakfast cereal soggy. I think that’s gross and hope her tastes will change as she grows up; thankfully she already is food-curious for an eleven year old. Breakfast cereals are slowly becoming popular here after years of marketing by multinationals, which can even be a good thing – corn flakes are not evil. Breakfast cereals are part of our half-american household but we still usually go for dipping Italian breakfast cookies in warm milk, colored with chocolate or espresso shots according to the age of who’s dunking. But most of us would rather our cornflakes are still crunchy when we eat it. It’s the same with pasta. Think about it. It’s just more pleasurable to have something to bite into than something squishy that falls apart under your tongue. It’s called “al dente” – literally “to the tooth” because your teeth still have to deal with eating it – but Ricciolidoro (Goldilocks) would have called it “just right”. How do you tell when Ricciolidoro will finish her whole plate? Folk legend has it that you throw a strand of spaghetti on a vertical wooden cupboard and when it starts to stick it’s ready. I have tried this so you don’t have to at home. First, it has to be a simple wood surface, or it will just slide off anyway. Second, it’s really quite disgusting. When was the cupboard last cleaned? How much pasta material will stay up there and for how long? And trust the insights of the rocket scientist who tested the theory (me) that the taste of wood finish and traces of cleaning liquids and wax were not enjoyable when I was 19, and there’s no way I’m going to verify if they have gotten any better today. I mean, who dreamt that up? Gross. Basically the pasta is al dente the minute the center is cooked, and the exterior is just becoming soft enough to make the sauce stick but not so soft that it absorbs the sauce. You can actually see this moment happen. As your spaghetti boils try taking a piece out and biting into it a few minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package and look at the subtle color difference like you would count the rings of a wooden stump to identify the age of a tree. When the inside yellow disappears, it should be ready. I prefer it a bit rawer, when there’s still a pinprick sized darker core. If you’ve been eating soggy spaghetti for most of you life, try eating it the hard way.

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