Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mystery Sauce

I’m not sure whether it was the wine, the new Sufjan Stevens Christmas CD I just got from iTunes, sweet D. and his antics, or the vegetalis, but the mystery tomato sauce I found in the freezer tonight paired with some pasta and garlicky asparagus was almost magical tonight. I started to dethaw it yesterday because I thought there might be one night this week when I didn’t want to cook and I wasn’t going out. Tonight was that night! I got stood up for dinner by a colleague, and D. had an office holiday party. So I was on my own. With my Christmas tree, fresh from the country this weekend and naked as the day it was born. So I went home and starting compiling a Christmas playlist on my iPod. I had a bunch of Christmas CDs that I hadn’t loaded onto my computer yet from years past, Christmas on Death Row, Cocteau Twins, A Jazz Christmas, and A Soul Train Christmas, so I spent some time importing the CDs to my library.

While I transferred my old music, I took the stems off of some asparagus that had been in the fridge for a few days. I needed to break off a substantial piece of each stalk—they had already started to go. I set them aside and chopped three cloves of garlic. I opened a bottle of wine that I had just gotten at Trader Joe’s, a Carinena from Spain called Abrazo Del Toro (The Embrace of the Bull?) and poured myself a glass.

I jumped onto iTunes and searched for some holiday music that I had just read about in the magazine I’d been reading: The Week, that claims to be the magazine that contains “all you need to know about everything that matters.” (how could I not read it?) I downloaded Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas, Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong, and James’ Taylor at Christmas. What beautiful music! And what a nice night on my own. D kept calling from the party, he sounded like he was having fun, and I was happy puttering about on my own.

I heated the olive oil in the pan, and when it got really hot, I threw in the sliced garlic cloves. I think I cooked them too long, they were really brown, but when I added the asparagus, the smell was amazing.

Another glass of wine, and I took out some ornaments. The sauce was getting hot, the pasta was ready, and the garlic and asparagus were still sizzling. The review in The Week said that although McLachlin’s CD was “probably the prettiest CD of the season, [she] is not the best bringer of holiday cheer,” and I thought that was a bit unfair. I’ve always found her music to be unflinchingly real, and appropriately sad. Her song "Hold On" that came out in the mid-90s, which was, I thought, about a woman who was caring for a lover, or a friend, who was dying of AIDS and looked to God for help towards the end was one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard. The review in the magazine said that “Christmatime Is Here" was a tearjerker, but I didn’t find nearly as sad as "Song for Winter’s Night," which I can only imagine is about a woman whose loved one is in Iraq or Afghanistan. Oh my god.

Sufjan Stevens was more whimsical, but just as beautiful. And James Taylor was, well, James Taylor. Very nice. So against that backdrop, I made a small plate of pasta with the tomato sauce I’d found, but didn’t remember the origins of, some asparagus with very brown and gooey garlic, and freshly grated Romano cheese. Yum. There’s nothing wrong at all with a night on your own.

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