Just back from Urbino in Italy. I was invited to a round table titled Participatory Politics and Social Media. I have quite a few stories and reflections from the trip to share here, but before all of those, here’s a quick and totally unacademic anecdote first.
When I was in Leicester doing my MA, the security settings of the college email system were not as tight as what you’d expect now. I’m talking about a decade ago. So, students could easily circulate spammy jokes to the entire students who were logged on at a given time. One of the jokes I received and still remember was the typical “The Top Ten Reasons for Being a [insert any nationality]”. Well, yes, it was stereotypifying and even borderline racist, but because it touched on many nationalities, the senders somehow got away. Like the logic tested in Agatha Christie’s “The A.B.C. Murders”, if you want to insult, insult everybody[!?].
One of the listed ‘advantages’ of being an Italian was “In-depth knowledge of bizarre pasta shapes”. As a self-catered student for God knows how long, pastas – and bottled sauce – have been my best friend, but the trip this time made me realise that I had only seen the tip of the iceberg. The last meal I had in Urbino before hitting the road included something called orecchiette. When it was served, people around the table – from both the region and other cities – told me that it was the second best thing in the world. Hmmm, I just realised they never told me what the best of the best is then. Anyway, all I can tell you is that I tried it myself and found the description convincing. (FYI, I also discovered a pasta dish I would personally rank as the ‘bestest’ during the same trip, but I believe that deserves a separate post.)
I never had a chance to do any shopping during my stay. That’s alright because I am not a big fan of shopping anyway. But at a duty-free shop*, I impulsively bought a bag of dried orecchiette. I didn’t know what I would do with it. Of course I didn’t expect myself to be able to exactly replicate what I had at that old restaurant. I just had to buy it.
This morning, I was searching for a recipe. I even forgot what it was called, so my query was “Italian pasta small ears”. Luckily I remembered the etymology of the name at least. As always, Uncle Google understood what I really meant despite the weird sound of the query** and pointed me to a few Webpages including the following one.
His recipe didn’t help me much on this occasion as what I needed was an instruction on how to turn what I’d bought into a dish (and written in true For-Dummies style) rather than how to make pasta dough from scratch. But if not for anything else, just the title of the blog made me go all “Awwww”.
* I haven’t travelled much, but it strikes me that this was the first time I saw pasta in a duty-free shop. And come to think of it, that’s the kind of thing I would buy from a duty-free shop. Who cares about designer shoes?
** A journalist of the New York Times carried out a little investigation a few years back and confirmed that our search queries say a lot about us and are surprisingly NON-ANONYMOUS. I dread to imagine. 😛