OK, so Chinese comes close. Very close. If you’re cooking at home and know what the Hell you’re doing. But Italian cooking is proof positive that there are laws hidden in nature about the power of food and the ease of cooking it if you look around and pay close attention.
Cooking Italian is genuinely a sensual experience. I don’t mean that in a Nigella way or some miserable person’s discovery that the okra is better than the sex. I mean that when you cook Italian food, as is true with any cooking, you need to use your senses. The difference between the sensuality of Italian cooking and, say, French, is that there are an immediacy and improvisation to it.
You smell that the onions are done. You touch the pasta to see if it’s done. You hear the water about to boil. Etc.
Take last night. Seven minutes start to finish. Except for boiling the water and waiting for the pasta. That took about 22 minutes–but I’m reading while the water boils and the pasta cooks. (A collection of poorly translated early stories of Kawabata. Got to finish that so I can get back to “Act One” by Moss Hart.)
Anyway, where was I? Right, the dinner.
OK, take a cast iron frying pan. Add about four tablespoons of good olive oil. Put the heat on low. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of dried, crushed chili peppers. Slice 1/2 an onion. Slice two garlic cloves. Turn the heat up as high it can go. Add the onion and garlic. Stir until gold in color. Take a decent sausage. Squeeze it out of the casing. Add to the pan. Stir and press down until it breaks up and turns brown. Turn off the heat. Add about 1/2 cup of Pomi chopped tomatoes. Turn the heat on low. When the pasta is done, add it. Serve hot with grated parmigiano.
Total cost for two? About $2.50. Italy. I’m telling you.