Memoir of an Expedient Italian Menu in the Mountains


The hotter it gets in Pensacola, the more I look at my photos and journal notes from our time spending summers near Asheville, where it almost never got above 80 low-humidity degrees. The paragraphs below were written sometime in a late October time frame. . .

It has been kind of chilly and gray today, here in the Smoky Mountains. It’s that transitional few weeks between fabulous Autumn color and a seasonal Brown. Yesterday I walked out on the windy deck, where a swirl of yellow leaves was spiralling straight up to heaven. Today, it’s beginning to look a little bare.

Early afternoon, The Craving hit me: lasagna and bust head. When The Craving hits you, the nearest grocery and a recipe on the back of the pasta box looks pretty good. Forget my cook’s James Michener approach for tonight. If you’ve ever read any of his books, you know they all begin at the cellular level. I often feel guilty somehow if I don’t cook that way: homemade salad dressing, authentic lasagna with homegrown basil, and sauce made from the ground up, fresh baguettes and fruity olive oil infused with fresh chopped garlic and herbs. Chianti Classico or some such. Nope. Not tonight. Call this “The Expedient Italian” menu.

Okay. Here’s what we did. 

Chopped Romaine with a splash of Paul Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Back of the box Lasagna, fiddled with only a little

Santa Carolina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

Oh, my God. It was so good. I’ve started being able to sleep again most of the night, and an occasional treat of pasta and bust head is just the medicine for a solid six.

Uh, and oh yes, a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar. (Around here we call that “portion control” — not that it matters after a dinner like this. If you can’t afford the calories, don’t read the label; just put on the dimmer switch, light a candle and enjoy.)

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