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Dishing Up Pasta
It’s a mac-and-cheese kind of read — comfort food for the literary soul. From beyond the myths of Marco Polo, pasta has traveled the globe in many forms from different cultures. Which came first, the Chinese noodle or the Italian spaghetti? Who knows for certain, but we do know that Thomas Jefferson introduced the colonies to macaroni and cheese, solidifying a future for America’s top pasta.
Writers took to pasta like worker bees, buzzing around the idea of how to dish it up in a story. Like fine dining or a casual dish to pass, these stories will leave you wanting seconds.
The following is based on the September 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes pasta.
PART I (10-minute read)
Tradition by Reena Saxena
We love Grandma, and yet are never on the same page where food is concerned. She cannot appreciate the subtle flavors in a pasta or pizza, or the convenience of having carbs, proteins and fats all in a single meal. She is so stuck up in her concept of a traditional Indian thali meal. Who has the time for that kind of luxury eating?
Yet, today, as I celebrate a festival away from home, I miss the unique, delicate flavors of different dishes. I try to put a meal together. I am more Indian at heart than I realized.
Pasta Bee by Floridaborne
She waited for her word, looking down from the stage of her elementary school auditorium. She’d loved sitting at the kitchen table learning to spell while pasta cooked and tomato sauce simmered on her mother’s stove. She didn’t like standing under lights, stared at by 200 people.
“Antonia Giordano, spell…”
Starched ruffles itched at her neck, compliments of the dress her mother sewed from remnants for this occasion. But that didn’t stop her from spelling out a word she’d known since the age of two.
“S-p-a-g-h-e-t-t-i,” she replied.
Maybe next year they’d give her a harder word; like Vermicelli.
Too Bad It’s True by Susan Sleggs
Dear Diary, They say pasta is a comfort food. I’m choosing to believe that and plan to make a serving every Saturday from here to forever because it seems I end up at one hospital or another on Sunday. A few months ago I sat with my sister while she and her husband decided whether kidney dialysis was worth the extra time on earth for him. Two weeks ago it was my daughter fighting sepsis (she won) and this Sunday it was my son with a smashed shoulder. The wine is gone tonight, the yummy red sauce pasta awaits.
Remember that Old Elvis Song, In the Ghetti? by Bill Engleson
“So many noodles in the world. Whatdaya think…? You gotta choose, eh!”
Right, buddy. It’s been a long day, All I want is a quiet bus ride home. But that ain’t happening, is it?
There I am, going all silently rhetorical on the fellow sitting next to me. And all he wants to do is chit-chat about pasta.
I try and remember what Emily Post had to say about Public Transportation Etiquette.
Nothing immediately jumps out.
So, I say, noncommittally, “Noodles?”
“Yeah man,” he says, “My mom’s Mac and Cheese. It was the best.”
Yeah, I think…mine was too.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara by Bladud Fleas
The rule for pasta requires the water to be as salty as the Mediterranean. Paolo gives thanks it’s not Jordan and the Dead Sea. Nonna scrutinises him as he puts the chopped guanciale in the pan, heating slowly, extracting its flavoursome fat. She’s a fine mentor; he’s a teaser.
He gets the cream jug from the fridge; she cries out, “ai-ai-ai!” and tries to snatch it but he keeps it out of reach. He laughs then, returns the jug and chooses an egg for beating. She pinches his cheek, within reach. So he knows Carbonara; she’s taught him well.
Pasta – Preschool Style by Ritu Bhathal
“Okay, today we are making Mother’s Day gifts for your mummies, grandmas, or aunties.
What I want you to do is take the string in one hand, and pick up a piece of pasta.
Remember, the other day, we painted it?
It’s like a tube, and you can thread the string through it, and make a lovely necklace.
No, David, you can’t eat it.
Penny! Stop strangling Julia with the string!
Peter! Don’t tip the tray upside d-…
Don’t worry Mary, we can pick it all up, stop crying, please…”
The life of a pre-school teacher.
Elbow Macaroni by TN Kerr
Margarite grinned wildly, stepped off the bus and hurried toward me.
When she got close she dropped her backpack and leapt into my arms.
“Holy smokes, Kiddo,” I pushed her hair back and kissed her, “what are you so excited about today.”
“Art class, Daddy. I made a picture of you.”
“No, Daddy. Mixed media,”
“Mixed media? What’s that?”
I put her down. She pulled a paper plate from her backpack and showed me.
Macaroni was glued to the plate. There were pencil lines and hints of orange marker. It looked just like me.
Pasta Pray Tells: What Are We Eating, Exactly? by Peregrine Arc
The little girl grimaced in her seat, staring at her plate of pasta. The garlic bread basket sat in the middle of table, steamy and pleasant. Her parents urged her to try her meal.
The little girl sighed resignedly and tried to eat. The fork and spoon soon fell to her plate with a clatter.
“I can’t do it!” she exclaimed. “Please, don’t make me.”
“Why not, dear?”
“It’s angel’s hair!” the little girl sobbed. “Give it back to them, please!”
Traditions by Heather Gonzalez
Angela stood on her tiptoes to be able to see over the counter top. Her nonna was mixing the pasta dough with her hands, and she was finally tall enough to watch. Each movement seemed like nonna had choreographed an intricate dance. Fingers and dough intertwining to create the magic of pasta.
After each piece of pasta was perfectly shaped, nonna motioned for Angela to come closer. This was it. She was finally getting a chance to be apart of the magic. Gently she lowered the perfectly crafted dough into the water with pride.
“Al dente. Perfecto.” Nonna smiled.
A Fish Tale from Lake Country by Liz Husebye Hartmann
It couldn’t be un-seen. It was right there in front of me: the giant spaghetti bowl, the splash of Tante Lianna’s special sauce, meatballs rolling off the table and onto the floor, parmesan spread all over the dining room table, like sleet in a Minnesota mid-June storm.
And the noodles! Seemingly caught in mid-flight from the bowl, they lay heavy as nightcrawlers escaping a flooded sidewalk, the aftermath of the aforementioned storm, turned to punishing rain.
And Uncle Wilford, face down in the middle of it all.
He should have heeded the warning twinge in Tante Lianna’s trick knee.
Love’s Give and Take by Sascha Darlington
“Pasta Puttanesca? Do I have to perform an intervention?”
“I’m at a crossroads.”
“Something you’re not telling me?”
“It’s not about you. It’s Chloe and that jerk.”
“AKA her husband?”
“He got fired. Wants to be a stay-at-home dad. Do consulting work.”
“Don’t see the problem.”
“You wouldn’t. You’re nothing like him. He’s perpetually lazy, doesn’t know how to use a vacuum or a dustpan. Stove’s foreign as well.
“Why’s this your problem?”
“I promised Mom I’d look after Chloe. I’ve failed.”
“He’s failing. Your pasta smells good.”
“You didn’t use anchovies?”
“Not when you hate them.”
Peter the Pasta Maker by Michael Grogan
Peter, the Pasta Maker, was a jolly chap.
Peter had a crush on the Lady Macaroni who would swan in each day and buy his freshest pasta. She never passed the time of day with him, she was focused on her pasta.
Always five hundred grams of spaghetti, she could never be tempted by a fettuccine or a Peter’s famous spiral.
One day she surprised him by asking he would cook for her, a pasta party with Peter the Pasta Maker would go well she thought.
Peter was flattered and prepared to make Lady Macaroni his best ever pasta.
Flash Fiction by The Dark Netizen
“Is the order for table number ten ready?”
I turned the blaze of the cooking flame down and grasped the pan in my left hand. With my right hand, I expertly arranged the lines of spaghetti on the plate. Reuben walked up to me and winked.
“You know, she’s looking quite fine in her black dress today.”
I peeked outside through the kitchen door window. There she was again, sitting in perfect poise, making my heart beat harder. Reuben whispered.
“Tell her, man!”
I put the final touch on the dish with the red sauce.
“A red heart, sweet!”
A Visit To The ER by Patrick O’Connor
“Pasta! I want pasta!”
“It must be penne pasta, with meatballs, and marinara.”
The doctor stared at me with a quizzical look.
My wife shook her head and said “That sounds about right. He loves his pasta.”
After the x-rays, CT Scan, and EKG, they worked on getting the blood pressure back up.
“I’m sure your wife will take you to get some pasta once you are released.”
“I’ll make sure of it Doctor.”
Seemed like forever before we got out of the ER.
Got to the restaurant and ordered penne pasta with meatballs and marinara.
“I’m not hungry.”
Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle
“Would you like some spaghetti bolognaise, Nan?”
“Absolutely not. I don’t eat that foreign food. Nasty, gloopy stuff. You can’t even pick it up on your spoon properly; it slithers right off.”
“Why don’t you just give it a try, Nan? It really is very tasty with David’s sauce.”
“No, thank you. I would rather eat English mashed potatoes. Such a versatile food. Did I ever tell you how we used it to make pastry during the war when we couldn’t get flour?”
“Yes, Nan,” said Julie with a sigh. “You have told me about potato pastry many times.”
Lunch by oneletterup
“I think I know who she is.”
“What should we do?”
They whisper, but she hears.
Crouching in the hall shadows. Hidden.
Disappearing. Like before.
“Lunch time!” the nice man calls.
The little girl and little boy are at school.
She perches on the edge of her chair.
Her very own place at their table.
“Honey…” the nice lady begins.
“We’re so sorry…”
“You can’t stay here anymore.”
The girl freezes. Stares. Forkful of spaghetti suspended.
Fingers clench into a fist snapping the fork upright.
Steaming tomato sauce spatters.
Drips down her hand.
Red spreading. Staining.
Pasta for Breakfast by Norah Colvin
Papa Bear pushed back his chair. “Not this muck again.”
Mama Bear stopped mid-ladle. “It’s Baby Bear’s favourite. I— I thought it was yours too.”
Baby Bear’s lip quivered.
“Pfft! Sometimes a bear needs real food.” He grabbed his hat. “I’m going for a walk.”
“Papa!” Baby Bear went after him.
Mama Bear dumped the porridge, pot and all, into the bin, grabbed her hat and followed.
“Where are we going?” asked Baby Bear.
“Somewhere nice for breakfast. It is spring after all.”
Papa Bear paused outside BreakFasta Pasta, then went in.
Mama Bear smiled; pasta was her favourite.
The Legendary Feud by Anurag Bakhshi
The boy’s great-great-great-grandfather was apparently the one to blame
For he called the pasta sauce of the girl’s great-great-great-Nonna tagliatelle, listless and tame
The echo of that insult had now been felt by these two star-crossed lovers
Who, let’s admit it, were just looking for some good old action between the covers
Their dead bodies were a testament to the folly of pride
A lesson that a family pasta recipe is not something to mock or deride
As the Bard put it so succinctly- For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo
No Pasta Was Harmed in Making This Story by Anne Goodwin
She snipped off the seal and upended the pack. Closed her eyes as fusilli clattered into the bowl. Paused, shook her head, reached for the rigatoni bag.
An hour later, there was barely room for his coffee cup among the bowls of dried pasta on the kitchen worktop. “Tell me, you’re cooking dinner at six in the morning or you’ve invited a kindergarten class for hands-on play?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m researching sound effects for my radio drama next month.”
“You’ve set it in a restaurant? In Italy?”
“A shack in Madagascar. I’m recreating rain on a corrugated-iron roof.”
My London Marathon by Kelvin M. Knight
I squinted through the rain. The other competitors looked comically savage – the way their dyed hair dripped down their faces. Nonetheless, these fun runners were out my league. Hugging my bin liner coat, I felt under dressed. I felt under trained. I should have done more. These words were my epitaph.
Still, I eat more than anyone else at the pasta party yesterday evening, so the complex carbohydrates would be on my side, along with this pantomime horse, this huge banana, and this Herculean woman with a refrigerator chained to her back.
Groaning, I waved at the BBC cameraman.
World’s Worst Poem, Plated by Chelsea Owens
Perdonnez, signora, will you taste my
veritable vermicelli which lost a
Tagliatelle or gnocchi -or was
it tortellini or gemelli?- that cost a
Few dozzina homemade noodles: measured,
mixed, rolled, chopped, shaped, and boiled -hasta
Domani, questa mattina -when nappy
And wriggly rigatoni-head rastas
Dangle candid cannelloni for
colazione (o pranzo o cena o altro) sauced, a
Banchetto of bavett, bucatini,
bigoli, e barbina; which fosta
Amore, our home country joy; precious
mem’ries of mamma o zia o ci, who bossed a
Flourishing, famishing family,
practically-plated with a plethora of pasta.
If that doesn’t bake your noodle, you’ve lost-a.
Pasta by Anita Dawes
What is it good for, not eating.
Throw it at the wall, see if it sticks.
Leave it until it falls off, give it to the kids to play with.
Oh, wait a minute they have already done that.
My granddaughters have used it for school projects
Picture frames you cannot dust…
The Italians love to tell us it has to be Al dente, the bite.
The thought of eating pasta makes me want to run for the hills…
And I know it’s well-loved across the globe
But seriously, why was it ever invented?
Does it grow on trees?
PART II (5-minute read)
Mangia, Sii Benedetto e Mangia! by JulesPaige
Mama thought a good way to teach us to listen was to keep our mouths full. Mama would serve us bountiful plates of Orecchiette. Sometimes the way Nonna Bella would make It, or she used recipes from Nonna Julia. Northern and Southern Italians cooked a bit differently. But there was always too much food!
Nonna Bella made rich red tangy sauces. While Nonna Julia employed creamy cheeses to dress her pasta.
Today you can get Gluten free pasta. Though Doc’s say a serving is one cup cooked of any shape you choose. And that Isn’t nearly enough, is it?
Boon or Bane? by Deepa
I was drenched in sweat that soaked the back of my clothes like a scattered map. My fitness tracker blinked up a new record today. It was the best result accomplished for my running record.
Well, don’t I deserve a small treat?
I swiped the pasta mania app in my mobile and selected the double cheese creamy chicken pasta, porcini mushroom, and an orange drink to balance my cheesy treat.
From a fitness tracker to palatable feelings, everything in a swipe at your door service.
Mobile apps, is it a boon or a bane?
So What’s for Dinner? by Di @ pensitivity101
Hundred of marbles
On vines to be seen.
Pasta is long,
Pasta is thick,
Cheesy or savoury,
It’s simple and quick.
Put them together
A meal in a flash,
Wholesome and nourishing,
Even better than mash.
Add meat and an onion
For spaghetti bolognese,
Or kidney beans and chilli
On somewhat colder days.
Pasta is versatile,
Be it boiled or baked,
One thing I’ve not tried yet
Is a pasta filled cake.
Macaroni is pasta,
Add sugar and UHT
To make a sweet pudding
As afters for tea.
Pasta’s a staple,
For Hubby and me.
Chester, the Reluctant Dinner Guest by Molly Stevens
“Myra invited us over for pasta tonight,” Ruth said.
“Pasta?” said Chester. “Don’t she mean spaghetti?”
“No, she was clear about it. She said pasta.”
“Well, la-de-da! That’s what she calls it, does she? Was there another fancy name stuck to her highfalutin pasta, like ‘prime-a-veers?’”
“She didn’t say. It’ll be a surprise.”
Harrumph. “I better grab a six-pack of Papst Blue Ribbon. I know she’ll be pourin’ some cheek wine, like chardonnee that will give me heartburn.
“You can always stay at home if you’d like.”
“Nah, I’ll go with along you. Besides, I’m clean out of SpaghettiOs”
Mother’s Italian Cooking by AbijitRay
“I am going out, shall be back by evening.”
“I am making a new dish Shailaja, don’t go before you try.”
“Mother has become adventurous;” wondered Shailaja, “she is experimenting with non Indian recipes!”
“What’s cooking mother? Am I your only guinea pig?”
“Today I am making Italian noodles.”
“Italian noodles, mother! Its called vermicelli; noodle is Chinese. Spoken in public, this may result in a diplomatic incidence!”
“Stop lecturing, try this out. This is vermicelli cooked Indian way.”
Shailaja found her mother in kitchen juggling a cook book in Hindi along with a host of vegetables and spices.
Remembering Terra by Saifun Hassam
Down at the SeaQuail Market, by the old Fishermen’s wharf, we feasted on a picnic lunch under blue summer skies.
Jumbo pasta shells overflowing with sautéed shrimp, sun-drenched tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red and green bell peppers, olives, garlic and onions marinated in olive oil and just that delicate touch of rosemary, fennel and basil.
A generous sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese.
Espresso coffee and cinnamon ginger fudge.
In a week, Adriana, an astronaut and biochemist, would report for training for her first assignment to Mars. She was my sister. Would we ever see each other again?
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
David shut the door, shaking his head. Heather smirked. “Who was that?”
“The Pastafarians,” he said with a flourish.
“Welcome to Austin, right?”
“You’d think they’d respect dinner time.”
“What did he say, about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
They watched the disciples slink down the driveway, the tallest holding a book with a noodle dangling from the binding. “Do you think they’re serious?”
David shrugged, halfway holding a smile. “No. Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the point. We take this stuff too seriously.”
“Careful. You could get struck down talking like that.”
“Wouldn’t that just prove their point?”
Fettuccini Afraid-O by Susan Shuman
“This menu is amazing…” Shelley feigned enthusiasm.
“Get whatever you want,” Eddie shrugged. “Looks like you could use a good meal.”
“Oh, I can’t decide…”
Eddie wished she’d leave her hair alone. It looked like she was trying to strangle her fingertips with it. “Why are you doing that?”
“Huh?” Shelley let go of her hair. “Oh, bad habit.” Her throat tightened.
The waitress brought a steaming loaf of bread to their table and began rattling off the pasta specials.
That’s what did it.
Shelley stifled a scream and scrambled for the door—
Phagophobia: a legacy from her mother.
Pasta by Deborah Lee
Jane ambles through the grocery store, pushing a cart and luxuriating in the experience of grocery shopping. Like people who have a food budget, cupboards to store recipe ingredients, a kitchen for melding them into a home-cooked meal, refrigerator for leftovers.
She hesitates in the pasta aisle, torn between the thought of a steak or her mother’s standby, macaroni with tomatoes and cheese melted through. She used to think of pasta as poor-people food – before she became a poor-people. But it will always be comfort food, Jane thinks, tossing three times as much as she needs into her basket.
September 13: Flash Fiction Challenge
Center ice is dry concrete today, formed into a temporary roller rink with lime-green and hot-pink tape. It’s the final game for the Roller Derby at Dee Stadium, summer’s yin to winter’s coming yang of ice-hockey.
The wooden risers ascend steeply from the concrete below. Painted the color of tomato sauce mixed with cream, I realize I’m hungry for pasta. Spaghetti has been a constant in my marriage — soon to be 31 years next week. Like pasta in my life, much has changed. My daughter and SIL don’t eat pasta (no eggs or gluten), and the Hub’s spaghetti is not something he fixes anymore.
Thus I crave it. Our humanity craves the comfort zones it has known. Spaghetti calls stronger than kale chips.
At the make-shift roller rink, I settle for a vegetarian pasty and a cold Grizzly Pear cider. Suomi, the restaurant serving up their pasties, include a sugar cookie to look like a Finnish flag. Hockey, pasties, and Finns color the Keweenaw Peninsula. But so does pasta — as a mining mecca of copper for more than 150 years, Italians ranked among the many immigrants who settled here for work.
Before the roller derby game, I had been hiking around the hillside ruins of the Cliff Mine, erected in 1846. The hike, led by Keweenaw National Historical Park Rangers, included the abandoned Protestant cemetery in the land set aside for growing food and grazing. By 1852, the plot was required for burials. Wives and children succumbed to the dangers of motherhood and infancy; husbands and pre-teen boys fell to mining accidents.
Half-way up the ridge midway between Hancock and Copper Harbor, miners dug where copper once littered the ground in native form so pure, a person could forge it into tools and weapons. In fact, indigenous groups had surface mined copper as far back as 6,000 years ago. The Keweenaw is among the first places where humans mined metals.
More recent mining first attracted Cornish miners who brought skilled labor and technology to the Keweenaw. At Cliff Mine, evidence of their technology remains in the rock ruins, buildings shaped to house processes of stamping copper from ore. A rounded foundation hidden among the overgrowth of maple and birch hints at a whim. Many surnames on fading gravemarkers speak of Cornish heritage.
What boomed on the Keweenaw caused prices worldwide to slump. Mines in Cornwall faltered as those along the wild shores of Lake Superior flourished. Cornwall’s contribution to mining was more than technology — it was in skilled labor of men who spread around the globe with their knowledge. These were the “Cousin Jacks.”
One such Cousin Jack worked the Avery Shaft at Cliff Mine. It took miners 45 minutes to crawl up 900 feet of ladders, and the mine Captain asked this Jack if he could replicate a man engine — a Cornish devised platform built to remove miners from the hole. Although history did not record his name, it notes this man’s ability to improvise one, sparing the miners their long commute.
Often, I think of the hardships of these men deep in the rocks tunnels. Then, I gaze at the ore, unable to stop looking. They must have felt a similar pull, compelled to seek out the veins and follow them. Can you imagine finding copper pieces as large as 120 tons? Nowhere on earth is native copper found in such massive quantities. Elsewhere it must be extracted from other minerals.
For perspective, outside of the Keweenaw, the largest native copper nugget weighed in at five pounds.
Thus I live in a town called Hancock (a Cornish surname) where every restaurant serves a pasty. From outside the Dee Stadium windows that line the top of the wall facing Quincy Hill, I can see the outline of a mine, hoist, and railbed. Hancock also has two Italian restaurants and a smattering of Italian surnames.
Like dragonflies and poor-rock ore, Cousin Jacks and Guidos came together on a ridge that runs through us all in Copper Country. Together we gather to watch our sports and share our food.
September 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes pasta. It can be spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, or any variety. It can be a meal or a work of art. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by September 18, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.
NOTE: Flash Fiction Challenges go on hiatus September 27 and return November 1 to make way for our 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. It’s free to enter. Five unique contests led by five Rough Writers — Geoff Le Pard, Irene Waters, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, and D. Avery — debut every Wednesday in October. Each contest remains open for a week and has its own take on flash fiction. It’s free to enter, and first place in each Rodeo contest is $25. Catch the 24-hour Free-writes, too (September 19 and 25) to qualify as one of five writers to compete in the TUFFest Ride.
If you want to sponsor the event, check out the different levels of sponsorship.
Fancy Food on the Prairie (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Nancy Jane slurped her plum. “True story, Sarah.”
Sarah bent over the creek, avoiding plum juice her friend didn’t seem to mind. “Why would someone hang dough from the rafters?”
“To dry it.” Nancy Jane tossed the fruit-stone, then rinsed her face.
“But why such long strands?”
Nancy Jane shrugged. “The ones he brought with him in his Conestoga were brittle as bark but cooked soft. We had fresh-churned butter and chives over them. I still think of trying my hand at dried rafter dough.”
“Is that what he called it?”
“No, he called it something silly, like ‘spag-hettie’”