Airing Out the Pasta Salad

I would never dream of so maligning the characters of any of my fluffy and darling quail as to suggest that there have picky eating tendencies. Perish the thought. But there is a particular giddiness I feel when I stumble upon a recipe that causes Quail the Second to exclaim that she loves everything in that pasta salad, that it is in fact one of her favorite foods. I sit up and take notice.

And this despite having promised myself never to fall for the pie crust enthusiasm of picky eaters ever again, that gushing approbation that makes me believe that if I would simply make hot dogs/fake cheese/that one pizza with the thingys on top/sauteed zucchini/riced cauliflower/ad nauseum every single day, that they would absolutely eat it. I am intrigued by the claim that it is not only one, but in fact every ingredient that she loves. I must have sucker tattooed across my forehead.

I mean… I spent enough time in the tattooing chair, I really thought I would have noticed that one happening…

There have been dark moments of introspection when I wonder if my love of all things culinary is actually ruining my children for good food. Maybe growing up in a world where they are fed warm buttermilk biscuits from the oven slathered with freshly made cucumber canteloupe vanilla jam for no other reason than it being Monday is actually pushing them towards Wonderbread and frozen TV dinners. What kind of children can look at a plate full of sauerbraten, homemade spaetzel and red cabbage and after 20 minutes of pushing it around the plate, insist that they did try it — see? That little mouse nibble off the corner? That, they aver with entirely straight faces, is 3 bites!

At the risk of a shameless food brag, may I tell you what I fed my small fry today? And this purely to recruit you to my way of looking at things, that you might adopt an appropriately aghast expression when the narrative demands.

  • Breakfast was fluffy multigrain pancakes made with spelt, topped with butter and homemade jam (4 different options: strawberry rhubarb, canteloupe, nectarine, and apricot) or maple syrup and bacon.
  • Lunch was fried provolone and tomato sandwiches on cracked wheat sourdough, white nectarine slices, sweet peppers from the garden, and Peruvian potato chips.
  • Snack was leftover oatmeal pancakes, toasted and spread with almond butter and Nutella.
  • Dinner was smoked pork chops glazed with spiced honey, sweet orange cherry tomatoes, and a pasta salad that I will be telling you about further down.

Are you on my side yet?

Wiser women than I draw hard lines about these sorts of things. I know — I am related to them. I have heard stories of food battles to the death, of the banana that was refused at breakfast being offered 8 hours later and I admit to moral failure in this respect. I am the sort of person who tends to dip the thing in Nutella and hand it back to the kid. In part, this is because while conflict seems to follow me everywhere I go in my life (even wooley baa lambs can start fires), I dislike any unnecessary conflict in my home. There is plenty of necessary conflict, and don’t get me wrong — we have it. But I despise long protracted battles over something that is intended as an unspeakably good gift.

Given this, you can perhaps imagine my feelings when I was preparing a cold pasta salad on a hot day and such effusive and kind words were bestowed upon it, and me by extension. It is a simple dish: green beans from the garden, parboiled and chopped up, peaches, candied pecans, bacon, mayo and salt and pepper all mixed up in a bowl of orzo. If you cook the orzo first, it goes over even better. Ditto the bacon.

Now, flavor-wise, this one really does hit it out of the park and it is distinctly fun to feed to strangers, because they are unusual salad-mates, as it were. I am actually inordinately fond of feeding guests dishes I have never made before. It is probably a little bit like catering a dance at the state pen — they aren’t really in a position to complain, if they don’t want to starve, and it is highly entertaining to watch their faces, whether for the good or evil. I always feign that it is a matter of etiquette, my insisting that they take the first bite, but really I just don’t get out much and take my kicks and giggles where I can find them.

My only beef with this pasta salad is that after a couple of days in the refrigerator, it takes on a grayish hue, a sort of homogenized colorization that I find personally off-putting. The flavor and texture remains splendid, but it needs stirring up, needs a bit of fluffing and reconstituting to be attractive in a dish again.

This, my friends, is why you cannot cut yourself off from the fellowship of other believers.

What? Isn’t that what you thought we were talking about?

You can maintain all the right beliefs, hold fast the sound doctrine, be personally growing (huh… the whole pasta salad analogy breaks down a bit here, doesn’t it? Don’t really want things growing in my salad…) and yet, if you are not being regularly fluffed up by other believers, you will grow stagnant. You will grow comfortable in your own thoughts and ideas — you need to be tumbled about, disagreed with and loved anyway! You are part of a body. You know what happens to body parts that are cut off? Man… I hope you’re not eating while you read this… let’s just say it’s gross, ok? Smelly. Discolored.

If you are in a season where it feels that no one is terribly interested in inviting you in, no one initiating that fellowship that your soul so badly needs, then ask God for courage to be the one to fluff the salad. Put down your pride, your insecurity, your selfishness! Go bump into people, go be a beautiful mess of pasta, and all for the glory of God!

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