Help! My Marinara Just Died!

Some Saturday fun!

I love to eat, and it has been said that every now and then, I eat a bit too much. Ok. There may be something to this. I do still feel a slight twinge of guilt about devouring that entire mushroom and onion pizza in my dorm room on a wintry evening years ago. And I do get cravings for pork braised in red wine with onions and mushrooms. Which is why that cookbook on braising that I got for Christmas this year is very dangerous stuff!

But while I am coming clean here, I also should say that I love great food writing even more. Why? To answer that I would refer back to the great Czikszentmihalyi. That wily Hungarian American pointed out that we are most happy when we see something new. Like when Felix Baumgartner first peeked out of his balloon cabin back at earth just before he jumped out. BTW, you can see what he saw and more via GoPro high definition video. It is pretty awesome. You should check out the video, but in the meantime, here is the image that I like

Not totally unlike me emerging from the john the morning after that pizza episode. But ever wonder why Barmgartner started falling so fast? I can hear the moans already. “It’s gravity, stupid!” Sure it’s gravity. But what is gravity? I can hear the chorus again “It’s a force!” Well, actually, Einstein showed that it is not a force. It is something much stranger – the displacement of time and space because of mass.

And this is where things get pretty cool. Some humans are smart enough to be able to measure the amount of gravity in the universe. I personally have no idea how they do it. But they do. These smart dudes can also measure the amount of mass in the universe. Once again, I am not a card carrying member of that club. So no questions, please. They also know how much gravity a given amount of mass would cause. I don’t know the formula, but I do step on a scale now and then. Ok. Not every day. So I am confident that there is a formula somewhere. It just makes me bigger than I think I am.

Back to our story. Here is the kicker. After all of this measuring, the really, really smart dudes found out that the universe has more gravity than it should based on how much mass there is. And not by a little bit. Time for some aspirin.

Back in the 1930’s some really, really smart dudes figured this out for the first time and they started scratching their heads. Astrophysicists are still scratching their heads about this. They have no idea where the gravity comes from. So to make themselves look smarter, they say it comes from something that they call “dark matter”. And what is that? Heeehee – as smart as these dudes may be, they have no clue. And how do I know they have no clue? I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson’s very cool video about it. Funny how using smart sounding words like “dark matter” and “gravity” gives one the appearance of being very smart. Try it on your doggie next time “Time for perambulation, mein freund!” Take my word for it, it works!

Back on earth, happiness is also seeing the right way to make marinara sauce for the first time. After we see it, we can still get pleasure from devouring it. Lots of pleasure. Perhaps even more than I got from that pizza. Errr … even though I had some wild dreams after that and let’s not discuss the morning after. But while we can feel lots of pleasure, we get no happier.  That is weird. As Czikszentmihalyi wisely pointed out, more pleasure does not add to happiness. These things are just different. And here comes another kicker. Great food writing is about seeing things for the first time. And that gives me something that eating does not. That is why I like it more. Question answered. Thank the Lord!

So just how do you make great marinara? There was a time when I would have scoffed at such a fundamental question. “What could be easier than presiding over that slowly simmering tomato sauce … that is, if you have the time? Just be sure to add lots of red wine, and some sugar to unlock the sweetness of the tomatoes.” By responding that way, I would have revealed my absolute and total ignorance of all things marinara. I would have been stripped bare for the world to see that I knew nada about what makes marinara marinara. Mon dieu! BTW, be warned. Clicking on the “mon dieu” link will get your attention.

For the record, Julia Moskin set me straight. Here she is, wearing a dress with a rather interesting pattern

Julia pounded home the main point. Marinara is not just tomato sauce. It uses tomatoes — of a certain type and freshness — but it is not at all like that bubbling gorgon that sits all day belching from a huge pot on the stove.

And it does not use tomato pure or other junk. And no onions! And it is not made slowly. And you don’t put cheese on it when it is ready. And you don’t just plop it on top of pasta.

So many “don’ts”! Perhaps one needs these negatives from time to time in order to break old hoary habits. There is still room on the planet for the drill sergeant. Sort of like my high school physics teacher. Which may be why I cannot calculate the mass and gravity in the universe. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer thinking positively. Like John Wayne in the so so movie “Wings of Eagles”. He lay in his hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down. With his side kick playing ukalele and a mirror perched so that he could see his foot, he kept saying “I’m gonna move that toe!”

And he did. You can see him do it here. BTW, that guy with the ukelele was a very good friend!

So here goes. If you love fresh olive oil, garlic, and fresh tomato, why would you spoil that combination by adding anything to it? And why would you over cook it? Back to Julia

Frank Prisinzano, who makes four different tomato sauces at his restaurant Sauce in the East Village (said) “Marinara, after 25 minutes, it’s dead.”

Yikes! That about captures marinara for me.

Now time to get to the kitchen!


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