For as long as I can remember I have found the presence of more than one type of pasta on the same plate a cause of unease. I am not talking here about more than one type of pasta dish – a problem with such a thing would rule out many a Chinese buffet and Waitrose self-service salad bar. No, my issue is with more than one type of pasta as part of the same dish, i.e. covered by the same sauce. I shall, later on in this article (because that is what this is) expound on some potential reasons behind my aversion. For now, however, I want to highlight some of the reactions elicited from a selection of my acquaintances upon my mentioning it on Facebook. Let it never be said that the mavens behind Average Food Blog neglect to do their market research.
Quoth I: “It really bothers me when I have more than one type of pasta as part of the same meal.”
I immediately got a response, from a friend’s girlfriend, accusing me of being ‘autistic’. Someone else told me to ‘get over it’, and still someone else urged me to “try having NO types of pasta in the same meal, like the starving children in Ethiopia.”
Suffice it to say that sympathy with my predicament was not altogether gushing. But it was there. Sure, it may be more noble to concentrate on the ‘bigger’ things in life, such as famine, but surely the ‘trivial’ things constitute that for which we seek alleviation of life’s travails in the first place. Why do we want to eradicate famine? So people can be free to live a life full of ‘little things’; so people can be free to enjoy pasta, and to talk about their preferences thereof. One or two of my acquaintances recognised this. Thus, in amongst the scorn was a comment reading: “I also find [jumbled up pasta] highly unsettling. Why is this?”
Why indeed? Now I am no psychologist. The sophomoric musings of the previous paragraph attest to that. But I’d like to explore, if I may, some of the reasons behind what I shall henceforth term ‘Jumbled Pasta Aversion’ (JPA).
An obvious cause of JPA is simply that a multiplicity of pasta-types necessitates a laboriously multi-faceted forkular technique. The standard ‘twirling’ fork movement that is so useful when it comes to spaghetti will simply not do the job on penne. Thus, a plate containing spaghetti and penne will require two different techniques, and if the pasta is all jumbled up it will take some forethought and dexterity to administer the correct technique at any given time. Needless to say, this is more than people should have to put up with.
This, however, is merely to scratch the surface of JPA; it is undeniably true, but it is also somewhat superficial. I suspect that JPA goes much deeper, for jumbled pasta fails at a fundamental level to satisfy our desire for order in the world. Further, it serves as a reminder that we in fact have little control even over that which is ostensibly a paradigmatic example of informed agency – that which we (apparently) choose to put in our own mouths. Jumbled pasta is an aberration at the same time as embodying the truth; it is uncomfortable yet it mirrors that which us unavoidable. The world is a chaotic place, and jumbled pasta reveals to us our impotence in the fact of this chaos. The unified sauce in which the jumbled pasta is cloaked – as per my proviso in paragraph 1 – is a shroud shielding us from the uncomfortable, unordered, ungovernable reality. The unified sauce is all the little rituals we go through to impose order on our lives. It is every christening, wedding and funeral. It is every friendship. It is every ‘I love you’, every pay rise, every mortgage. It is every t-shirt, hairstyle and song. It is everything we ever do to make us feel we belong. It is every trivial act from which we seek sustenance against The Famine, The Void, The Meaninglessness.
Also, jumbled pasta has different textures, which is kind of annoying.