Chick Wit: Pasta wars: Scottolines put Congress to shame

Posted: September 11, 2011

It was the summer of our discontent.

Where to begin?

An earthquake, a hurricane, and a visit from Mother Mary.

A disaster trifecta.

The perfect storm of catastrophes.

The Manny, Moe, and Jack of nightmares.

Just kidding.

She was here for two months, and now that she's gone back to Miami, I miss her. When I feel sad, I turn on Everybody Loves Raymond, really really REALLY LOUD.

And then I don't miss her anymore.

She came up because a sewer main broke under her house, necessitating all manner of repair work, and I figured it would be best if she wasn't there to tell the workmen they were working too hard or they were really cute.

But we got off to a rocky start, which is to be expected, as we met only 56 years ago.

Here's our problem. We each have our own way of doing things. Actually, to be accurate, we have the exact same way of doing things, but we still disagree.

This is even harder than it sounds.

Spaghetti is a case in point.

I think it should be cooked for six minutes, or al dente. She thinks it should be cooked for 30 minutes, or al dentures.

That's Italian for mushy.

She thinks my spaghetti tastes like sticks, and I think hers doesn't taste.

Of course, we're both adamant about our cooking times. That's what I mean when I say we do things the same way. We're both adamant, all the time, about everything. Adamancy runs like lifeblood in Scottoline women. If I die driving off a cliff, just know I was going the right way.

So at our first spaghetti meal, Mother Mary and I strike a compromise. I cook the spaghetti for 18 minutes, which is too soft for me and too chewy for her.

The only thing we agree on is that we both hate compromise.

The next night, I try a different take.


If you can't lie to your mother, who can you lie to?

So I tell her I cooked the spaghetti for 30 minutes even though I didn't, because she can't see the clock anyway. This doesn't work, as she is practically blind, not completely stupid.

Also, we disagree on whether to salt the water. I never salt it, but she always does. I think if we salt it, I'll get high blood pressure and die. She thinks if we don't salt it, we'll be defying centuries of Italian culinary history, so we might as well be dead.

Either way, spaghetti is life or death.

If you don't think your dinner is a medical emergency, you're not adamant enough.

It occurs to me, at one point, that we should try to negotiate, so I tell her I'll salt the water if she lets me cook the spaghetti for less time, but she won't go for it, and we have gridlock that even Congress can't match.

Because they're not adamant enough, either.

That's the problem with the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. They're just too flexible. Too willing to listen to each other. To see the other side. To work together and cooperate, for the greater good.

Scottolines don't make fundamental mistakes like that.

We show no such lapses of judgment.

Those politicians should come over to my house and take a lesson. Mother Mary and I could school those pikers. They're adamancy rookies. They might be able to shut down a government, but we can shut down a kitchen.

Which would you miss first?

I know.

So the solution for our spaghetti war was simple, and we did it the rest of the summer. I boiled two pots of pasta, each time. One was salted and one wasn't. One was cooked properly. And one wasn't.

Thus we resolved our impasse. Or our impasta.


Of course, most nights, the temperature in the kitchen hovered at 300 degrees.

But that had nothing to do with boiling water.

And we never got to eat at the same time, either. I ate during the first half of Seinfeld, and she ate during the second half, so it worked out fine, by Scottoline standards.

You can't have your spaghetti and eat it, too.

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's essays have been published in "My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" and "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." Lisa's latest novel, "Save Me," is on sale now. Visit Lisa at

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