My pasta con sarde is legendary, at least among those fortunate enough to have partaken of it, due in no small part to the effort that goes into its preparation and the superb quality of the ingredients I use, which is why what happened tonight was so appalling.
I sautéed the garlic and mushrooms, while slicing a red onion and green peppers to add to the pan. I sprinkled the mixture with an array of spices and added condiments, including wild fennel, black current, sunflower oil, and salted sardines puree. Next came the cooked shrimp and skinless, boneless sardines, and let’s not forget, the anchovies. Now, it was time to boil a pot of water and add the flax seed enhanced wheat pasta. I opened the carton and, as the stick-like pasta slid into the pot, several black specks rode with them.
The specks, upon closer inspection, were moving, perhaps not wishing to continue the wild water ride that ended in a boiling pot. They skirted and danced along my stove. I stopped them before they reached the larger pot containing my pasta con sarde, sans pasta, and dumped the uncooked pasta into the trash. I let the remaining mixture simmer, like my anger, and headed to the grocery store where I had purchased the suspect carton three days earlier.
I sidestepped the line at the customer service desk and asked the young girl manning it to call the store manager over. Not wanting to trouble the store manager to deal with trivial inconveniences like customers, she instead asked if she could assist me. Noting the ire of the customers waiting in line, who now feared I had cut ahead of them, I replied no, she could continue to sell lottery tickets and cigarettes – which is most of the service provided at this particular customer service desk – and if I had wanted to speak to her, I would have waited my turn in line. You see, bugs don’t respect the boundaries of cardboard containers, and if they are inside one, they are likely inside several, if not all of the other boxes on the shelf. Several bugs escaped from the box as I was speaking, flitting across the customer service desk. An infestation of insects in food products is a public health issue that should be brought to the store manager’s immediate attention, at least, in my opinion. “I’ll tell my manager” doesn't cut it. No, I’ll tell your manager.
She paged her manager, while I tried to regain my appetite for the pasta con sarde for which I had slaved over a hot stove minutes earlier. A bimbo in the line gave me a puzzled look and asked me if I had checked the expiration date on the box. In my best John Cleese impression, I turned the pasta box sideways, put on my reading glasses, and exclaimed, “Ah, of course! It says so right here. Use within three days after purchase or contents will turn into small insects.”
Not a single Basil Fawlty fan in the crowd. And yes, it’s a true story.