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May 21, 2008

Is It Chili or Is It Pasta?


Few have considered the circumstances that give us the deep, philosophical question, “Is it chili, or is it pasta?” Indeed, most people have not yet asked themselves the question about when food acquires self-awareness, a critical precursor to questions of identity.


We shall seek to address the second question. If you are the kind of person who cannot fathom the first, perhaps this is the time to go do something else. Might I suggest hugging your children, for someplace questions are being contemplated that might cause you to question your loyalty to your own family unit.


Answering this question really involves understanding the structure of the thing itself. That starts at the root, with ground meat of some kind.


Chop some onion and garlic cloves. Add some cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper. Slowly, surely, an identity is forming here. Yet, having gotten this far, you know that the end of this will stand not a butler with a candlestick, but a question of unprecedented depth.


Once the meat has browned, add some oregano and several chopped-up tomatoes. Also add some chopped green pepper. When the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat, you will also want to add some frozen corn, a chopped jalapeno pepper and tomato paste to thicken things up and add a rich darkness to the red color.


You could go one of two directions here. You could add canned kidney beans and you would have a clear answer to the question we all know is coming. That, however, would be a cop out, something too ugly and smelly to let stay inside the house.


Instead, boil some water and add to it a box of spaghetti. It will take from eight to 10 minutes for it to cook to proper al dente firmness, then drain.


Scientists have yet to take the inherent lesson here and apply it to questions of why it is that a person appears to have a more vibrant, complex personality than a paramecium. It is because while the paramecium may be constituted entirely of browned ground meat, a person is likely to have several other ingredients that prompt a number of different paradoxes and incongruencies that provoke inner conflict and questions of identity.


The final step in this is to blend together the sauce and the pasta. You could have stopped, but naturally curiosity drove you forward. Your creation lies before you, half pasta, half chili, a dish with a mind that will spend the rest of its life trying to divine its purpose. The internal conflict will be evident from the moment you apply the tip of your tongue to it, so full of heat is it.


At last, we reach the end and the question, “Is it chili, or is it pasta?” We will apply the only appropriate answer, one as puzzling as the question itself. We will say, “It is not pie.” But, with a wink, we will acknowledge that it goes well with garlic bread.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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