Culture has always been a big part of my life. As a youngster, my parents raised me to learn the importance of the Greek from which my family originated. In turn, I learned about other peoples’ cultures, too.
I wasn’t always surrounded by a sea of vibrant cultures and foreign languages, however. I lived a large portion of my early childhood in the rural suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky: the land of horses, bluegrass, and baseball bats. While it was a fine upbringing, I didn’t experience much cultural diversity other than familial Greek customs. I wouldn’t be exposed to the beauty that other cultures had to offer until I was at the ripe age of 7, when my Dad got relocated to Atlanta, Georgia for his job at UPS.
I didn’t expect much from moving to Georgia. In my head, it was just another city down south, akin to Kentucky in terms of diversity. One 6-hour car ride later, we were living in a town on the outskirts of Atlanta called Johns Creek, affectionately called “Johns Korea”. My family had moved to a massive cultural hub where there were people of all nations everywhere around me. Down the street, there was a massive Asian market (H-Mart). Russian and Persian groceries were also present, and there were plenty of middle-eastern bakeries and restaurants.
After school, especially in my younger days, I would often hang out at a friend’s house for a few hours before dinner. Many of my friends were Indian, Korean, Chinese, Scandinavian, Italian, Pakistani, or Iranian, and their cultures were vastly different than what I had been previously used to. Within their homes were sometimes entire rooms devoted to religious ornaments or other cultural amenities I had never seen before. It was a wonderland. I would walk through friends’ houses looking at all the unfamiliar statues, ornaments, pictures, and furniture, while wonderful wafts and scents floated from the kitchen, which eventually turned out to be an awesome snack.
I continued living like this, saturated by massive amounts of diverse cultures surrounding me. This saturation followed me through high school, but everything changed a bit after I graduated and went to college. Don’t get me wrong, UGA has a pretty wide degree of diversity, but it wasn’t what I was used to back home.
That craving followed me around until sophomore year, when I was in the market to join an organization and actually do something with myself. My friend Nisha (shout out!) almost immediately blurted out, “Hey, join AIESEC!” I had heard plenty about it from her, and it seemed like a good enough cause to be a part of, but I still wasn’t entirely sure, at least not until I met the people involved.
After I joined, I remember being at the first Local Committee Meeting, walking in and seeing all the members talking and laughing with each other. I can honestly say that I felt entirely at home at that moment. There were more cultures around me than I knew what to do with, and I couldn’t wait to soak it all in, and learn so much more. AIESEC provided a home for me, as well as some cultural respite that I desperately needed.
We all might be from entirely different backgrounds, and have our contrasts between each other, but I absolutely call these people my family.
Not only are they there for me through thick and thin, but through them, and all the other AIESECers I’ve met through them (believe me, there are a lot), they continue to give me the remainder of the cultural upbringing that I need, satisfying my hunger for knowledge about the many people of the world, and their ways of life.
I spent the better part of the day today looking up recipes for various pastas (don’t ask me what I did for the rest of the day; I might be the only person in 2015 still watching The West Wing, and I’m thoroughly ashamed). When I say pasta, I don’t mean pasta dishes. No, I don’t need the Food Network to tell me how to make a bomb pasta primavera or baked lasagna (just my overbearing mother). What I did look up was fresh pasta recipes.
Spaghetti, rigatoni, ravioli, and my personal favorite, tagliatelle (I’m bougie), there are so many different types of noodles, all lovely and carby in their own ways. As I’m sure you know (other people care about this too, right?), pasta making is an art, and there are many mediums on which it can be created. There are endless choices between semolina and white flour, whole eggs or yolks or no eggs at all, hand rolling or pasta machines, the pasta-bilities are endless (will not blame you if you choose to leave now).
As I settled on a recipe (ravioli, white flour, three eggs, hand rolled), I walked into my pantry to get started. The first thing my eyes found, though, was the dried boxed pasta that was already sitting there.
You need to understand something about my family. Actually, two things.
My family has reinvented the idea of carbo-loading, treating it as an every day necessity rather than a once-a-month (okay, once-a-week) treat. We eat bread, rice, potatoes, and yes, pasta, like nobody’s business (seriously, it’s nobody’s business, fuck off). So when I say there’s pasta in my house, I mean it. In the interest of journalistic integrity (for the grand total of 0 people who read this), I will go check to see just how much pasta is in the pantry, so that I may present an accurate report.
Okay. I’m back.
In our pantry right now there are 2 boxes of spaghetti (one from Whole Foods because we are fancy as shit), 2 boxes of fettuccine, 1 box of large lasagna sheets, 1 box of “cut rigate,” 1 box of elbows (elbow pasta, freak), and 6 boxes of Annie’s organic macaroni & cheese (I still do not know if I believe whether mac & cheese constitutes “pasta,” but that’s a whole different issue).
So basically, the point of that heinously long list of carbohydrate-based products (Mr. Atkins is probably rolling over in his low-carb, high protein grave) is that there is more than enough pasta in my house. So much so that it would be not only borderline insane to make my own, but also wholly unnecessary. So naturally, I, being a reasonable and rational human adult (lol) walked away, and decided to pursue something more productive and useful (like The West Wing).
Now that I sit here in my kitchen poring over a slice of banana bread and tea (it’s cheat day), I think back to this afternoon, and wonder if I should have made that pasta after all.
I can feel the dough beneath my palms, doughy and elastic. I can feel the sweet ache of rolling and stretching a fresh sheet over the counter, cutting it with precision until it’s just right. In my head, it seems like a wonderful, fulfilling experience. And I wish now that I had felt these things after all.
Because, honestly, who cares if there’s already spaghetti in the pantry? Life’s way too short not to make fresh pasta.
I’m starting to realize that not everything has to have a reason. Sometimes it’s okay to just do, just live. Sometimes just wanting a feeling in your head, in your heart, in your body is enough. I’m the kind of person that tends to pursue things only as means to an end (I was into Machiavelli).
I rarely just enjoy, just doing something or experience something because I want to. But as I sit here regretting not making my own pasta this afternoon, I’m seeing that not everything needs to serve a purpose. Not everything needs to make perfect, logical sense. It’s okay to want to pursue life around the edges rather than in the shortest straight line from A to B. Sometimes it’s better to go for it just because you wanted to knead your own dough instead of boiling the store-bought stuff for 8 and a half minutes.
Reason belongs to the head, but life belongs to the heart. If you let things like pure logic hold you back, the opportunity to experience, to feel, to explore, might pass you by. Who knows? Had I made my own pasta today, my very own three cheese ravioli, my whole life could have changed. Maybe I would have discovered a hidden talent. Maybe I would have had friends over, watched Christmas movies, shared laughs and smiles over bowls of pasta (doubtful: I have no friends). What today might have been has passed me by because I let something as silly as rational thinking hold me back. But there is always a tomorrow.
Who cares what’s in your pantry? Make it fresh anyways.