If Yan Could Cook. . .

Lemon-Basil Fettucine with Chicken, Spinach, & Pine Nuts

with 2 comments

It seems my last life is ending, though I go through its motions: a zombie in lectures, producing papers and assignments when commanded, studying in coffeeshops. My new life overlaps: rejection letters from magazines, friends laying claim to my furniture, untouched grant applications on my desk. An acquaintance – a friend of a friend – is getting married to a man she has only been dating for half a year. I used to say, whenever the topic came up, how does anyone ever get married? How can you ever know? How can you ever know what you want for the rest of your life?

Now, after talking more deeply with other people, I think marriage is like swimming in open water, like city biking, like sex, like fighting, like rock climbing, like making new friends, being around people who are new. One day you wake up and it no longer frightens you. It’s something you’ve been doing for years, and you can no longer remember why it was frightening in the first place.

Looking at these pictures of meals, I can see around them, past the frame, to this grown-up apartment that is owned and not rented, where we are playing house for my last months in Montreal. I am still faking knowing how to cook. I have been doing that since the beginning. In my jobs, the chef comes in and asks if I can slice a lump of cured salmon into paper-thin slices for appetizer plates with a boning knife, if I can invent a salad dressing, if I can stuff flowers with cheese, if I can julienne peppers, if I can make vegetable stock from a bucket of garbage, if I can make soup or grill meat or make perfect eggs and I always say yes and it is always a lie. Somehow I am not fired; somehow I pull through. Someday it will be earnest, and JP and I will sit down to one of these meals I have fudged and made up and it will not feel like a happy accident. Someday I will not feel like a child who has woken up in an adult body expected to know things, expected to produce things, expected to be something and love someone and own lots of things together. For there is beauty in that, more beauty than assimilation: in the love and the things. For the things inside the frame, for the food and the wine and the light.


This was an experiment which tasted great but struck me as not optimally done. With the water for the fettucine boiling, I cooked a roux of butter, flour, minced garlic and shallots, and then quickly stirred in white wine and a lot (six tablespoons-ish) of lemon juice. I cooked the sliced chicken in a separate pan, with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. After the pasta was cooked, I didn’t drain it completely, letting the spinach cook briefly in the hot pasta water and then draining the reserve. All of the parts – the thin white sauce, the chicken, the spinach and pasta mixture – were tossed together in the pot with a heaping cup of chopped fresh basil, and then served with additional salt and pine nuts.


Primarily I wondered if making the sauce was necessary at all, and if it would have been better to have just tossed basil, lemon juice, cooked chicken, spinach, shallots, garlic, and pine nuts together – if the taste would have been sharper and cleaner. A theory to test soon.


Written by skimfu

March 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Chicken, Pasta

2 Responses

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  1. What I love about this blog is how the cooking, while delicious sounding and lovely, is something of a tool for you to explore what’s happening in your life in a deeper way. I really enjoy reading your writing.


    April 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    • Thanks for the kind words!


      April 23, 2009 at 9:30 am

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