“Right so this,” begins commenter Graham, smugly, “is going to be one harsh comment.” And it was. Oh, it was.
You should know first that the comments on this blog are uniformly either lovely, or proper spam.
The lovely ones are lovely. Most of the spam is nonsense (handbags, penises).
Some of it is quite sad (“I’m sorry for to the time I take of read your works,” says WILLOWANDJADENSMITHPICS).
Some of it requires a trigger warning (“For girls, Kellogg recommends the binding of the hands before bed, and states he has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris and excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”).
And some of it is practically Joycean (“As I was simply a tiny sweetheart, I asked “What not working you should be? Should I you should be truly? Should I you should be truly? Should I you should be truly? What exactly results coming? Furthermore correctly, not working you should be splendid? Inches. That could be mostly truly according to locations. Due to universe, death hold. From time to time hangs from your mom spirits within shrill fluorescents floodlight, among your anxiety”).
But Graham’s comment was none of those things. It was, in fact, the first nasty comment I have ever had on a blog post: getting to 21 in 2014 with only one self-proclaimed harsh commenter seems like an absurd achievement. But so it was. And so Graham was. Reader, I cried.
I cried! I did. Only a little bit, though, and then I raged, and the best recipe for sorrow and rage is pasta with eggs and bacon and enormous, decadent quantities of cheese. In other words, carbonara.
The best recipe for feeling-better-after-someone-on-the-internet-has-been-mean-to-you is carbonara. This is scientific fact.
The best recipe for carbonara is Nigella’s and that is also scientific fact. Nigella’s carbonara is all sex and Nora Ephron and sucking spaghetti gratuitously and messily straight up from the pan to the chin, and all of those things are the best things for when you are Just A Bit Down. Of course, it’s also good “for that chin-dripping, love-soaked primal feast, the first time someone actually stays through the night. Yes, I know a whole pack of spaghetti is far too much for two, but I want that whole panful lugged back to the bedroom. No namby-pamby mimsy little plated arrangement.” Oh, Nigella. Nigella. There’s nobody quite like Nigella. Imagine feeling sad about the Grahams of this world when there are Nigellas.
In the deepest recesses of my secret heart I have a little fantasy that Nigella and I are friends (call-each-other-up friends; inside-joke friends), and when someone is nasty about us on the internet we make carbonara for each other. It’s our thing. We eat carbonara together at a vast piney kitchen table, and occasionally we pat each other companionably on the shoulder, and wonder idly about Graham’s lack of social skills and sexual prowess (Nigella-in-my-head is essentially my friend Caroline, only less Irish, and older) and then Nigella-in-my-head and I have seconds, and laugh until we are a little bit hysterical.
Which, rather coincidentally, is just what Graham thinks I am. Possessing as I do both a uterus, and an abundance of “unmanageable emotional excesses”, I’m quite happy to be hysterical.
I have tried quite hard to make this post as “unfocussed, clichèd, too personalised… tedious, boring, hysterical, arrogant and very very average” as even the most dedicated of Grahams could wish. Then I deleted his comment, and had thirds.
(This is not quite Nigella’s Carbonara, because I was in the Peak District again and didn’t have a shop to hand, but it is close enough.)
Nearly Nigella’s Don’t Read The Comments Carbonara
Serves 2 (but not Graham) wildly generously.
15 mins pan to table. Less if you don’t bother about plates.
Four large bits of the piggiest bacon you can find (or pancetta!)
Three large eggs
80g grated Parmesan cheese
A smallish glass of white wine
40ml cream, or at a pinch full-fat milk
Sliver of butter; tablespoon olive oil
Two cloves of garlic
A simply astonishing amount of black pepper
Nutmeg, if you can be bothered.
Generous helpings of tagliatelle (has anyone ever weighed pasta? Except Graham. Graham weighs pasta. Probably. Graham also eats flies.)
Kitchen scissors; enormous frying pan; saucepan
First take your pig; fling him with abandon into the frying pan as he is (even with bacon, it needs crisping first) with the butter and olive oil. I am very keen on using both things together, but of course what we’re really after is simply a little fat. Peel both cloves of garlic, and crush them lightly, by pressing the side with the flat of a knife. I learned this trick from the Half-Blood Prince: he was talking about Sopophorous beans and a Draught of Living Death, but it works exceptionally well for garlic and Tagliatelle Carbonara. Put the garlic in with the bacon and the fat.
While the pig is frying, grate vast quantities of cheese. I have put 80g, although of course I have never weighed it: it is simply whatever seems to you to be an extravagant amount of cheese for two people.
Set a pan of salt-water (salt-water sea-water) on a hottish heat to boil, and while it’s boiling and the pig crisping (“crispy but never crunchy”, says Nigella), beat together in a jug the cheese, the milk/cream, the eggs, and oh, so much black pepper.
Cut your crisp bacon to shreds with the kitchen scissors (you don’t, of course, need to do this with commercial pancetta), and return it to the pan, throwing over the glass of wine. It will sizzle alarmingly. This is what is supposed to happen. Do not worry. What we’re aiming for is what Nigella calls a “salty winey syrup”, and this is exactly what you will get if you let it reduce.
Your pan of boiling water is almost certainly ready for its close-up. Put the pasta in; follow packet.
Once aged eleven I was asked to write as English homework a series of instructions for cooking pasta. It was a stupid homework. I knew it was a stupid homework. And I was an awful child. “Step One: Read simple directions on packet of pasta. Step Two: Follow simple directions on packet of pasta.” did not precisely cut the mustard with Miss Cramp, but it did at least have the virtue of being concise. I hated Miss Cramp with a fiery passion, and she hated me, and ten years on I am happy to say that should I meet her in the street today, I would treat her with all the contempt of a proto-Graham. Anyway, if you require more instructions than that, I suspect life must be very difficult for you.
Boil your pasta until al-dente, stirring your winey-garlicky-bacony syrup occasionally as it thickens down. Drain the pasta, reserving a half-mug of pasta water, and add the pasta to the bacon-pan. Stir it thoroughly, adding a little bit of reserved pasta water “to lubricate”, as Nigella says. Take the pan off the heat. Call to table, or, at least, call through that you are COMING BACK, WITH FOOD.
Toss through the egg-and-cheese mixture, grate over more (more!) black pepper, (more!) Parmesan, and a little nutmeg if you have it, take two forks, and eat it as is.
Take comfort in knowing that Graham has never had food this good. Take comfort in knowing that Graham, at this moment, is picking dolefully through the flies on his basement windowsill. Take comfort in knowing that, like many anonymous internet commenters, Graham is a lonely, ugly, arsehole. And he must accept it.
And I make no apologies for using a Love Actually clip in September.