Luisa Weiss’s Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Capers, Anchovies and Parsley
The Wednesday Chef was the first food blog I really got. It was through her site that I learned to recognize the very fine, but distinct, line between simply caring about food in all of its forms and caring about the more important people, places, and memories that inevitably get tangled up in all the food that gets made and eaten and shared throughout a lifetime. Because while there is certainly food out there that deserves attention, food by itself can really only go so far. Food is a means to an end. A beautiful means, mind you, but a means nonetheless. I think I always felt like this, since I really only like cooking and baking for others, but it was Luisa who really articulated it for me.
There’s this letter that F. Scott Fitzgerald sent to a young woman who was hoping to get some feedback on a story she wrote. Fitzgerald let her know that to be able to be a writer, “you have to sell your heart.” He said that the price of admission to that sort of profession is being willing to transfer your emotions “to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.”
Luisa Weiss must have sold her heart to the public (thank you, Luisa, for doing that), because her book, My Berlin Kitchen, is pure beauty in its writing and story. Luisa said something along the lines of how she wrote this book for anyone who has felt perpetual homesickness, being split between opposing worlds with loved ones being on different continents and how to deal with it. Now I’m fortunate to have almost everyone I really love and care about be pretty close near me, but I know the feeling of wanting everyone you love to just get along, and fit together like one big family, even if they don’t and probably won’t ever. I also know the feeling of homesickness, even if I’m home, just because I’m one of those people who live in the past and nostalgically (and unsuccessfully) try to reconcile the moments from those that are gone with what I’m currently living through. And I also know trying to choose what type of path you want to lead in life, and trying to figure out and guess where those different paths might lead you. My life hasn’t followed the same pattern as Luisa Weiss’s has, as narrated by her memoir. But her writing is good, so good, enough to where her heart is lent out to you and every emotion she has, you feel.
Of course, all of these emotions are usually, in some way, tied to food. Luisa has such a way of talking about life and food that makes you want to make every single recipe she shares in the book. That’s just how it goes: the emotions come out, there’s that whole wonderful human feeling, some time or another food follows and we invariably want to get at those feelings again by making that same food. The first recipe I chose to make out of her book may seem pretty homely, and a little unshowy. And guess what, appearances don’t deceive here–it is homely, and unshowy. This is the sort of meal you make for just yourself, when you’re not fortunate enough to have people to share it with. Luisa’s recipe in the book reflects this, as she writes it out to serve just 1. How convenient for my life lately! But you know, it gets the job done, and in probably the best way possible when you’re just trying to feed yourself before getting back to some school readings or papers.
Anyway, go out and enjoy Luisa’s new book if you haven’t already. Because I’m willing to go out on a limb and say if you have any value for love and finding your place in this world, you’ll love Luisa’s new book. If you happen to love food, too, then better yet.
One Year Ago: Risotto with Wild Rice, Butternut Squash, and Mushrooms, and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting (By the way, just recently made these again and replaced the old photos with new ones. In case you’re interested.)
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Capers, Anchovies and Parsley
Adapted slightly from Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen
A couple notes: although Luisa says the anchovy is optional, I would go ahead and say it’s really not. Don’t omit it, please, or you’ll be missing out. Also, instead of smashing the garlic clove and taking it out at the end, you could just cut the garlic into slivers, cook until barely golden, and serve the pasta with it.
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 anchovy filet
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons capers
Bring water to boil in a medium-large saucepan. Just as it gets boiling, add in a few good pinches of salt. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente. Drain, but make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup or so of the starchy pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking, set 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the smashed garlic clove, red pepper flakes and anchovy in a small saucepan over medium heat. Break up the anchovy with a wooden spoon so it dissolves into the heated oil. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crunchy and coated in oil. Remove the smashed garlic clove, add the parsley, and taste for salt.
Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan along with the second tablespoon of oil, the capers, and a spoonful or two of the reserved starchy cooking water, and toss to coat in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Serve, and top with a little more parsley if you’d like.