Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mamma Grimaldi: Lasagna Preface

Indexing previous reporting from my 2019 Italy trip:
The Naples Diet
Lines in Italy Explain My Exasperation
His Dying Thought: Oh, right; this is how you die in Italy
The Surprising Truth About Real Neapolitan Brick Oven Pizza
The Surprising Truth About Real Sicilian Rice Balls
Marzipan, You Idiot! Marzipan!
Naples: Mistaking Soulfulness for Danger
Two Recent Glimpses of Ridiculous Death
Pasta Time!
Miscellaneous PIzza
Sfogliatelle Shootout in Naples
Desserts and Lodgings
The Benign Insanity of Scouting Moroccan Food in Naples
Jewish and Comedy Food in Italy

There's something you need to understand before you lay eyes on the long-awaited report about lunch at Mamma Grimaldi's house. I don't want to overload that report with background material, so let's briefly talk lasagna.

A regular reader of this Slog might get the impression that I'm obsessed with it. Here are just a few recent mentions.

Why Simplicity is Hard, on the foibles of reheating lasagna:
As I recently reheated some leftover lasagna (lasagna!!!) with brutish vapidity (belying the many years of experience behind my reheating choices), thunking the cold carby slab into a nonstick skillet at medium heat, drizzling a tablespoon or two of chicken stock into the pan, covering, and cutting heat back to low at first sizzle, I experienced a flash of self-awareness, showing me how Philistinian I looked.

Not a pretty picture. I appeared like some elderly British pensioner futzing around mournfully in his bathrobe, dutifully executing a series of tasks beginning with the opening of a reeking can of cat food. This is not how magic conjuring is assumed to look (yet again: magic is messy).

But then I transferred the lasagna to my plate and beheld a thing of beauty. The bottom was just starting to crunch/caramelize, and the rest was perfectly melty and moistened. As is often true, my reheating turned out better than the original. So-so lasagna was transformed into something that could make you weep.
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams", on lasagna as an examplar of the magical quality of art:
" exceptional lasagna might transport us in ways that can't be attributed to its constituent ingredients. Why, after all, do certain lasagnas have that power, while others do not? Why do some results amount to so much more than the sum of their parts? That's the magic!"
" "The Frets are Very, Very Far Apart", on entitlement:
For those convinced that we're the most suffering sufferers who've ever suffered...I have good news and bad. The good news is that we've been spoiled rotten, which explains why we gnash our teeth at the lower end of a spectrum of unprecedented prosperity, tolerance, and high-mindedness - as if someone's snatched away some tiny morsel of our towering portion of astoundingly delicious lasagna. The bad news is that when you've lost all sense of proportion, you curse yourself to apocalyptic pain whenever the floor drops further.
Bands I Like, on subjectivity in art appreciation:
I may know more about food than you do, but if we were to share a slamming plate of lasagna, you and I would feel an affinity. We'd know we were enjoying the same thing in the same way. But if we were to listen to music together, you'd see me smiling, grimacing, and rollling my eyes at what would strike you as completely random moments. You'd wonder what the hell I was hearing. There's no commonality!
And my magnum lasagna opus, Lasagna and Depression, a complete prescription for a happy life based on a sanely clear-eyed framing of the whole lasagna issue:
I love lasagna. Sure, everybody loves lasagna, but I love it more. If you ever saw me eating lasagna - even just pretty good lasagna - you'd be watching a happy fellow. You'd figure I was born to eat lasagna.

But do you know how many times per year I eat lasagna? Maybe once. If that.

There are lots of reasons. It's hard to find good. And it tends to be overpriced. And I try to eat healthy. So lasagna doesn't happen much for me. But the weird thing is how absolutely okay I am with that.

Now that you understand where I'm coming from with lasagna, we are ready to proceed. I'm assuming you've done your homework, per the assignment several postings back:
Coming up soon in this series: lunch at the table of Mamma Grimaldi, who I've been scheming to meet for 30 years, and who didn't disappoint. If I can assign some homework in preparation, please have a look at the devastating Mamma Grimaldi photo essay sent in a couple of years ago by her son, guitarist Andrea Grimaldi, a very old friend living near Barcelona. The three-part food porn glory begins here, and it will change your inner biology (not to oversell).

Next installment of my Italy trip: Mamma Grimaldi: The Final Lasagna

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