Monday, October 12, 2015

eating squash pasta and talking over dinner

A couple weeks ago, I read this article by Sherry Turkle in the New York Times.

It talked about solitude and conversation and phones.

For me, it was exactly just right.

My friends know I'm already pretty old-fashioned: I refuse to text and I just joined Facebook a few months ago  for this blog.

Mostly, I don't like being interrupted. I like concentrating and listening and being listened to. And I think you can't do that very well with a phone (or two) between you.

But I do see that everywhere around me, everything is changing.

At work, students walk across campus, heads down, reading and typing. I walk into an office to ask something and the person across from me feels the pull of the keyboard and screen to keep typing and scanning while I talk. A good friend has her phone on the table, upside down, while we're meeting other friends for dinner.

In the name of efficiency  in the name of distraction  we can't concentrate on each other.

This article also looked at solitude and I suddenly realized I've been interrupting my solitude just as much. When did it become wrong to stand in a line up and look around, instead of looking down at a phone? Why do I need to check my phone on the bus or at home in the evening?

I dearly love my solitude and if I want to accomplish something more than I am right now, interrupting myself won't help. It'll just be satisfying for those 10 seconds when I see there's a new message.

I am not missing anything.

For me, at least, it's time to make very deliberate decisions about when to turn the phone off. As a rough rule of thumb, let's say more often than not.

I made this new squash and pasta dish from Luisa around the same time I read the article.

I roasted the squash with Korean red pepper flakes and olive oil, and caramelized the onions slowly in apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Mashed together and mixed with a bit of pasta water, scooped next to corn on the cob, and showered in parmesan, it was a perfect fall meal  with not a phone in sight.

one year ago: fresh plum kuchen
two years ago: leek gratin
three years ago: beet salad with honey-horseradish dressing

squash pasta
slightly adapted from The Wednesday Chef and The New York Times

2 1/2  3 lb. orange squash, such as butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into small pieces (about 1/8  1/4 inch thick)
3 tbsp. + 3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 teaspon Korean red pepper flakes or dried chile flakes
3 tsp. kosher salt (1 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
a good amount of parmesan or asiago, grated, to top
optional: scoop out the squash seeds, toss them with olive oil and salt and roast them in a small pan while you're roasting the squash flesh.

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. Stir the squash, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a bowl. Spread onto the prepared pan, and cook, stirring once, about 15 minutes  until it's tender and a bit coloured. (You may wish to also roast the squash seeds at this point.) Take out of the oven.

2. In the meantime, set a heavy pot over medium-high heat and heat the other 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in the onions and remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir often, and cook until the onions are very soft and getting darker, about 10  15 minutes. Then pour in the vinegar and syrup and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until it gets almost syrupy and the onions break down, a bit like a jam.

3. Put the squash and onions in a bowl and use a fork to mash them together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

4. Boil your pasta  preferably penne or rigatoni  in lightly salted water until al dente. Near the end, set aside 1  2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water. Strain the pasta and then stir the squash-onion mixture in, also using some (or all) of the reserved pasta water to thin it. Serve with grated parmesan to go on top, and roasted seeds, if you made them.

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