Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spaghetti With A Smile

I was at one of the Japanese markets in Silicon Valley the other day and bought a package of Mama’s Pronto Spaghetti. This pasta cooks in just five minutes and its apron-wearing housewife cartoon character proclaims, “Fine Quality, Fine Smile.” It was good to be assured that I wouldn’t be serving grouchy pasta to my husband.

When I showed him the package he did smile. “I haven’t eaten this spaghetti for so long,” he gushed, saying it made him “natsukashii” (nostalgic) for his childhood in Osaka.

This was the first time I’d bought Japanese spaghetti and the first time I made a type of wafu pasta—mushrooms and hijiki (seaweed) simmered in soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine) and a bit of sugar. But I have long been addicted to Japanese pasta, which somehow tastes different from any pasta I’ve ever eaten. In Japan, because it is a Western food, it is never served with chopsticks, but always with a fork and spoon. I have observed many Japanese women gracefully partaking their pasta by utilizing these two utensils, something this clumsy gaijin would never attempt.

Mama’s Pronto Spaghetti is made from durham wheat flour, like a lot of pasta. It seems to be thinner than regular spaghetti but not as thin as angel hair or spaghettini. Some Italian pasta is called “thin spaghetti,” and maybe it is close to this. I don’t know, but I do know that eating my humble attempt at wafu pasta also made me natsukashii for Japan.

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