Let’s cut to the chase–obviously, I put together spaghetti alle vongole and, frankly, though I felt that it had a bit too much heat (only a tad, mind you), wifey wasn’t impressed. “No flavor”, she says. And I’m tasting mine and–you know, other than the too-spicey kick, and the fact that the pasta was slightly overdone, it was very delicately flavored–not bad for a first attempt.
“What was wrong with it?” I ask. She tastes, considers, and says that it didn’t taste like her go-to version from one of our favorite Italian eateries here in Berkeley. “What were the ingredients?”
Vongole is a traditional, simple recipe which has the following ingredients:
– linguine or spaghetti
– olive oil
– red pepper flakes
– white wine
Oh, and a bit of salt? That’s it. I did a few quick checks online and vongole doesn’t use butter–even if done in Provencale style (southeastern French style utilizing olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes). At the Italian place we like they use butter which, while not in the style it is traditionally made, but still– the butter does add a sweet smoothness. It’s not wrong to use it–I merely pointed out to her that I followed the ‘rules’ for making it. She was equinimical in her reaction, but for me, this was a significant breakthrough.
You see, my confidence in my palate has grown, even to the point now where I can place my taste preferences right up there against my wife’s, whose sense of taste and palate is quite excellent. Plainly, my food preferences are different from hers, but I’m starting to establish (at least in my own head) that cooking for my wife’s taste preferences is fine (and probably smart as she is my primary audience) but is not absolute–in simpler terms, just because my wife doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good–or would appeal to others.
So now I have to balance keeping my wife’s mouth happy but I now accept that her taste isn’t the only one in the world. I mean, if four different world class chefs can’t agree that a single bite is the best thing they’ve eaten on a TV show, then I need to keep an open mind that, while an important part of my culinary development, my wife’s preferences are simply that–preferences.
I couldn’t do it without her.