Breakups and Breakdowns

I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.
–Marcel Boulestin

I’ve never met a person who wasn’t had “that” relationship. The one that changes your life, and brings out the good and the bad in you. The relationship that makes people worry about you...be it the unhealthy aspects of it, or the fact that you’re so giddy and disgustingly happy that it’s hard to tell if you’re still in there among the starry eyes and romantic notions. That relationship has happened to every person I know. Some of us come out on top, and better for having had it. Some of us never get over it, and carry around the dark secret hurt with us while pretending to move on. And then others just don’t pretend.

Regardless of the length or the seriousness of the relationship, when it’s “that” one, it burns fast and hot when it’s over. There is no formula by which to gauge how much it should or shouldn’t hurt. The point is, it hurts. No matter if you think you’ve found the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with, or just the person you’ll go on a fourth date with…when it dissolves, and you realize you were wrong, it’s painful. No matter if it ends dramatically, with a knock down drag out fight, or quietly, with an apology and averted eyes, the sinking feeling in your stomach isn’t lessened.

I had that relationship once. Looking back now, I am well aware it was nowhere near as bad as I thought at the time…seeing as now the pain has subsided and the tears long since dried up. However, when I was in the midst of it, it was pure hell - and I struggled with the ability to cope.

It’s somewhat of a cliché that people use food to get through the bad times…but it’s fully supported. Whether it’s ice cream or filet mignon, chips and salsa or veal saltimbocca, the tendency to turn to food as a means to mend a broken heart seems to be a given. When I was at my lowest point, it was therapeutic to put myself through a rigorous workout. Had it not been for those morning gym visits, and the afternoon jogs with my dog, I’d have put on an incredible amount of weight…for all I wanted to do was eat. My favorite was baked spaghetti. I made dish after dish of it, in all different varieties, and it gave me an odd sense of solace. I’m fortunate that when I make it now, it doesn’t bring back a rush of emotion and sadness…instead, it still brings the same comfort that I so desperately relied on back then.

I’ve made baked spaghetti many ways. As much as I love Italian food, I’m not a huge fan of marinara sauce. As a result of that, I’ve found different ways to create this dish. Madame Benoit once said that “A recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation”. I’ve experimented enough to create different combinations…and haven’t found one I didn’t like.

Meat/main ingredient options: Ground beef, Italian sausage, mushrooms, shrimp, chicken
Sauce options: Alfredo, Sun dried tomato Alfredo (Bertolli in a jar), Newburg, Vodka Sauce
Cheeses: Mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago, Ricotta, Gouda

There’s no technique. There are no rules, and there is no magic wand. Pick a meat/main ingredient (or any combination, cooked accordingly), pick a sauce, pick a cheese. The amount of each all depends on personal preference…if you’re partial to sauce vs. cheese, add more sauce. Toss it all together with cooked pasta, and bake in a glass baking dish at 350 degrees until bubbly, usually about 25 minutes.

Whether it’s a breakup, a fight, or just a bad date, there are times when we need something to turn to. Figure out what works, and always have those items on hand. Life is unpredictable…and you never know when they may come in handy.

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