A door creaks open in a central New York Apartment on a blustery April day. A trembling, blinking creature emerges from the dark recesses within, moving slowly into the harsh afternoon light, a la The Beast of Disney fame. Who is this pale and disheveled form, you ask, wearing a bewitching mix of leggings and marinara-stained t-shirt with mismatched socks, inquiring of the cat as to the time?
It is I, the closet-dweller. I, who revels in the dark embrace of the closet by day and gazes, hypnotized, at glowing screens by night. I, who wrangles toddlers and recycles all those beer bottles whose labels I have not torn off in a frenzy of unused energy. I, who provides almost no monetary but much comedic support to my steadfast and lovely roommates. And where, you might ask, are these providers of vegetable knowledge, givers of gentle prodding into the warmth of the kitchen? Whither, they not of the closet?
My fellow denizens of small-town America have fled to England, leaving me to face alone the yawning cupboards empty of onions and greens and the anxiety-producing prospect of a solo farmer’s market. But I will not quaver! For they have also left me to indulge pleasant pastimes: Washing the dishes in one’s underwear whilst belting hits of the lovesick-country variety. Feeling no compunction about eating ice cream for breakfast. Talking to the cat freely in his natural tongue.
So I will press on, knowing as I do the shadowy contours of the apartment, the insomniac secrets of its culinary abundance. Join me, on this journey of discovery and peril, of fear and opportunity, as I leave the closet and prepare to fend for myself.
Tonight’s adventure involves pasta, mushrooms, butter, three-buck chuck, and the musical stylings of Ms. Dolly Parton. Let’s begin:
You might want to start by tying a red ribbon around your ponytail and clearing away some dishes, while listening to this song.
Ponder the contents of your fridge while you do so, and the big questions, such as, why exactly is food at the bottom of the drain so much less appealing than food on a plate? What does the mime in Dolly’s video symbolize? Where can I find those suspenders she’s wearing?
Congratulations. You have earned your first glass of wine. This can be consumed while cutting up some garlic and if you’re me, your second-to-last shallot. Chopping can be soothing but also boring, so you should listen to this awesome song. I give you my full permission to dance around singing the chorus into a wooden spoon, as I know you want to. Go on. If you can’t be undignified and cliche in front of your cat, you’re depriving an animal of the chance to harshly judge your melodramatics, and what kind of responsible pet owner would do that? Think of the animals!
If twangy, confusing, and unrequited love is not your thing (and if not, why not?) this is also a good opportunity to call someone you love but who lingers on the phone, as one: you have wine, and two: you can say, “I would love to talk some more, but I have to put these shallots and garlic onto the stove in a frying pan with a shitload of butter and salt and pepper. Goodnight!” (See what I did there? Subtle recipe instructions!)
Now, on to the improvisation portion of the meal. While the shallots and garlic are making sweet love to all that butter, fill a pot with water and set out the pasta of your choice. (I find it satisfying to methodically rip off the top of the box, but to each her own.) Cut up a hefty portion of portobello mushrooms. Throw those in with the other stuff. Here is where my night got tricky. I decided to be bold and go for a creamy sauce even though I had no cream. You could also take this recipe in the direction of the tomato-y balsamic if you have access to such things. What I did is perhaps unconventional, but turned out, well, let’s be honest, pretty ok: tear up some cheddar cheese (white, extra sharp, just like yours truly, heyo) and pour in the heaviest liquid dairy you posses, but not sour cream or yogurt, obviously. You want to keep the liquid in proportion with how much you chopped and how much pasta you’re making. With that in mind: pour a little bit of the wine from your glass into the pan but much more into your mouth. I also put some vegetable stock in there, cause it was in the fridge, and my mushrooms were a little withered and I thought it would perk them up. And yes, I realize this recipe is just to put a little of all your dairy products over pasta and mushrooms and eat it, but sue me. I’ve been living in a closet for six months.
I know you’re as smart as you are pretty, so you’ve remembered to cook and drain your pasta during all the above innovative saucing. Mix all the stuff you’ve cooked together and put a bunch of stuff on it: salt, pepper, more cheese. And pour another glass of wine. You deserve it. And let me know how it turned out. For me, it was sort of weird, but I liked it. That’s what she said. Closet-dweller out!
I took a shitty picture with my phone. You can just see the cat and the beer bottles in the background.