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That Pesky Pesto

It began with the best of intentions, as most calamities do. My sons’ newly acquired dislike of pasta, other than a precious few kinds, led me to try making it with a different sauce this time. My older son says he hates pasta. I say that can’t be. First, he ate it by the truckload as a child, and second, as an Italian, I’m pretty sure it is genetically outlawed. I mean, honestly, who uses being anti-pasta as teenage rebellion. My younger one likes pasta, but apparently not at the imagined amount I serve it. He claims I make it every night. The reality is I make it once or twice a week at most. I ask him to please save his hyperbole for his next sales pitch. I decide to cut through the pasta embargo by making it with pesto, since they like to eat it that way in restaurants, where apparently the pasta won’t kill you like the one at home does. I’m talking about making the fresh kind, not the one where you unscrew the cap. That I’ll save for the wine.

My dear friend, Irma, with the greenest thumb of anyone I know, happens to have a lovely garden with both basil and Italian parsley. I have a brand new little baby Cuisinart to try out. It’s not really made by that company, but by now we use that term as a noun for anything that pulses and grinds. Well, not everything, but that’s another story. Anyway, after a lovely evening out to dinner with Irma, we go back to her house, sit in her beautiful, but now naked yard, since her tree trimming party a few days before and then pick the basil and parsley for me to take home. It’s dark, of course, so I ask her if she is sure we can do it without turning it into a Lucy and Ethel episode. She assures me we can and we fare much better than when I came over to hook up a DVD player for her. That only took several days and a lot more alcohol, but I digress.

Monday night and I’m all excited to try my hand at pesto again, something I haven’t done in years, mostly because I hate cooking and because my cute little old Cuisinart and the big one I got as a wedding gift stopped working just about the time the marriage did. So I take out the new little red KitchenAid Food Processor I bought a few weeks ago, not for any reason other than I remembered I needed one when I was in the Best Buy returning another strange piece of equipment that failed to bring Wi-Fi from my family room to my bedroom. With cooking equipment, though, I am confident to the point of hubris. I threw the box, the receipt and caution to the wind before ever turning it on.

I begin by trying to take it apart so I can wash it before using it for the first time because of some imaginary poison we are all led to believe lurks on new things. I struggle and struggle and finally get the manual out to see exactly how this thing comes undone. Not in a very obvious manner. I can tell you that much. I wash and reassemble the complex machine and wipe the sweat off my brow at the same time. I read a recipe I find on the Internet and take my pine nuts and throw them gingerly into the tiny new food processor. I move what appears to be the only lever there is back and forth between pulse and chop. I press down on the lid like the manual says. Nothing. Not a whir. Not a pulse out of the damn thing. O boy. It must be broken I think, because operator error is never my first thought. So I take the nuts over to my old blender, both literally and figuratively, and think this is better than nothing. I astutely notice there is no hole to drizzle olive oil through in the blender's top, so I just put all the stuff in at once, noticing how much roomier it is in there. In goes the basil. Next goes the parsley. I congratulate myself on remembering to remove the stems. A splash of olive oil here and there and we are good to go. I put the top on and hit the pulse button. This one makes the appropriate noise, but only stuff at the very bottom is being smashed. Most of the greenery is not being pulverized very much. So I take the top off, get my favorite wooden spatula with the nice flat wide handle, stick the handle part way down to loosen the herbs and nuts while turning on the blender. Apparently, the blender works just fine judging by the inch of wooden handle that it spit into the pesto in seconds flat.

Well, the next step in this recipe was to pour the whole mess down the garbage disposal. I then texted my sons to tell them we are having pasta with butter and cheese rather than pesto. I ignored the groans. I had also promised Irma, the pesto ingredient procurer, some of the stuff as well. I told her that there would be no pesto from me anytime soon and why. Her gales of laughter were a welcome reaction, so I guess my calamitous try at the most simple but pesky of the pasta sauces wasn’t all in vain. Tomorrow, I’ll be asking the Geek Squad at Best Buy to teach me how to work a food processor. I’m sure they will be thrilled.


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