If you log out of Instagram, take a break from belatedly binging The OC, and let yourself pay attention, really pay attention, to everything happening in our country right now, you will realize President Trump’s Inaugural Address wasn’t a lie after all. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: These, my friends, are the days of American Carnage, and they’re worse than even the most pessimistic among us could have predicted.
Not only have more than 84,000 human beings been killed by a virus that didn’t exist six months ago, but they’ve died without funerals, without vigils, without goodbyes. In some cases, they’ve even had to be put on waiting lists for burial spots and body bags. Experts say more Americans have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus than even those numbers indicate—not to mention all of the carnage we’ll see in the years to come from missed mammograms, cancelled colonoscopies, and delayed cancer screenings, especially among the millions who have lost their jobs, and their health insurance, during this crisis.
Meanwhile, our Department of Justice, which has sent thousands of people of color to prison for lying to the FBI, has declared that you really are above the law if you’re boys with the president, a decision which, get this, has been defended by the same news sources that have justified lynching a black man for going on a jog.
Humans, especially white humans, especially male humans, especially humans with money, tell ourselves we’re better off ignoring these tragedies—because Marisa and Ryan on The OC do a lot more for our dopamine receptors than reading the news. And I’m as good as anyone at ignoring what actually matters, even in normal times, when I’ll spend $80 on Flirtibirds at Angel Share while one billion human beings do not have access to clean water. One billion.
But, over the past week, even I haven’t been able to tune out the tragedies taking place all around us. Which is why I’ve had a hard time motivating to write my newsletter about cooking—because why should anyone give a fuck about how to make gravlax when thousands of cars are lined up at food banks across our country; when meat-processing plants are killing their employees because we refuse to eat more vegetables; and when there is no end in sight, since Republicans in Washington won’t invest in testing and tracing as long as the people dying from this disease are more likely to be poor, black, and live in blue states?
The answer is you probably shouldn’t give a fuck about how to make gravlax. And I probably shouldn’t have cared the other night when my friend posted a picture of his Carbonara to Instagram, even though the eggs in it were scrambled. In fact, I tried to ignore it. But, eventually, I decided that, for everything we’ve lost, we must not give up the practice of being mad at the trivial tragedies taking place all around us, the irrational grievances that make our blood boil and remind us that we are human, particularly when it comes to food.
Because if you’re going to lean on the supply chain at a moment like this—and force a farmer to abuse a chicken to bring you an egg for your bougie Roman pasta dish during a global pandemic and a great depression—you’d better not scramble that goddamn egg.
So here’s my instructions for how to make Carbonara the correct way. And I hope you do. Because if you’re healthy and happy enough to spend time cooking a special meal—and if you have the ingredients to make one of the world’s most magical plates of pasta—you have a duty do it right. Which is why, hand to God, if I see you call a bowl of scrambled egg noodles “Carbonara” on your Instagram grid, in the words of Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.
Welcome to the age of American Carnage.
RECIPE: HOW TO MAKE CARBONARA WITHOUT SCRAMBLING YOUR EGG
Shout out to Hallie Meyer. This Carbonara is inspired by her two-pot method and Instagram Lives.
This is hers:
This is mine:
Here’s how you make it:
Grate more pecorino than you think you will need. Put it aside. If you don’t have pec, parm is fine.
Crack some eggs. Separate the whites from the yolks. Ditch the former. Put the latter in a bowl. Whisk them. Add enough pepper so that you can see a layer of it on the surface of the bowl. I’d say, like, five egg yolks per box of pasta should work. Put this mixture aside—AND DEFINITELY DO NOT TOUCH IT UNTIL I TELL YOU TO, LEST YOU SCRAMBLE YOUR FUCKING EGG.
Find a salty, porky meat—ideally guanciale, but pancetta and bacon are good, too. Cut it up into bite size pieces. Cook it in a *bit* of oil over medium-low heat.
Wait 10 minutes. Fill a pot with water. Salt the shit out of it. Then, wait for it to boil. Add pasta.
When the pasta is halfway done, take your meat out of its pot, leaving behind most of the oil and fat at the bottom. Add a few ladles of pasta water and stir until the mixture begins to resemble a sauce.
Take another ladle of the pasta water and add it to the egg bowl, whisking it all together. THIS MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO COOK THE EGG WITHOUT SCRAMBLING IT.
As soon as the pasta is done—defined as chewy but harder than you’d want it in its end state—add it to the pot of what should be a close-to-boiling mixture of pasta water, oil, and pork fat. Mix feverishly so each noodle is coated with sauce. Add back in the pork.
At this point, take the pot OFF THE HEAT, and then, AND ONLY THEN, add the egg mixture. Mix feverishly one more time until the pasta takes on a beautiful sheen and the pork is eggy. (NOTE: If the noodles aren’t glossy enough, there needs to be more oil or fat. If they’re too sticky, you need more water.)
Dump in your grated cheese and mix again until everything comes together as a single, cohesive sauce. This will take longer than you’re used to because the pasta isn’t being heated, but THAT’S THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE SURE THE EGG DOESN’T FUCKING SCRAMBLE SO IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT.
Put the pasta in a serving bowl. Sprinkle some extra pork over it if you left any behind. Devour it. Put on The O.C. And, before going to bed, donate money to a food bank. If your life is good enough to make a perfect carbonara during these times, then you can afford to send a few bucks to those who need it most.
Go to FeedingAmerica.org. Send me your receipt. I’ll match another $200 in donations today.