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Amongst the many changes I’m going to make when I come to power is this: replacing all of the information on the outside of spaghetti packs with a single, large numeral, indicating how many minutes the pasta needs cooking for.

Why don’t they do this? I don’t need all the other information. I don’t need a logo, or a cheery life-affirming slogan, and I certainly don’t need an ingredient list for the product. I know what’s in spaghetti — spaghetti. I don’t need recipe ideas, either: I evidently already have a dining plan, or I wouldn’t have bought the frigging pasta in the first place, would I? I don’t go out and speculatively buy random ingredients in the hope they’ll come in handy some day, nor do I skittishly swerve at the last minute and make something completely different to what I’d intended, just because the pasta manufacturer’s marketing department decided to fill up a bit of space with a recipe from an entirely unknown and untested source. For all I know, it could have been made up by the knuckle-dragging intern working in the post room. Do they have post rooms in pasta companies? I don’t know. Presumably the process requires some kind of communication with the outside world, but maybe they do it all via email now. Anyway.

It’s not just the pasta guys, either. You buy a little jar of Thai green curry paste, and guess what? There’s a recipe for Thai green curry on the side, as a kind of “Hey — why not consider making this?” gesture. What the fuck did you think I was going to do with the stuff? Spread it on toast? Give it to the cat? Use it as an ointment on intimate regions of my so-called body? Do you really think I’m the kind of person who’ll enter the kitchen without having some kind of game plan in place? Do I look like that kind of a asshole? Yeah? YEAH? Do you want a fight?

I don’t need this. I just need to know how long the sodding stuff needs boiling for. The figure given will be wrong , of course — no pasta ever actually takes the amount of time that’s claimed on the packet, the true period being a factor of some ineffable intersection of pasta quantity, water density, room temperature, size of pan, cast of the moon and god knows what else — a combination which St Peter whispers in your ear when you finally approach the pearly gates, but that is up until that time utterly unknowable. And yes, of course, the real test of pasta’s done-ness is always going to be in the taste and texture, I know this, I really do: but it’s still reassuring and helpful to have a guideline before you start, and the bottom line is this is the only piece of information I or anyone else needs when squaring up to pasta preparation.

So… get onto it. Don’t make me get my chainsaw out again. Nobody needs to get hurt over this. Whoever out there has control of these things, make it so. Now. I’ve got a dinner to cook.


Says Who?

Michael Marshall (Smith): novelist, screenwriter and sitting-place for cats.

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August 2009
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