Ms. Chang, my amazing 9th grade English teacher, often hammered in the importance of ‘Showing, Not Telling.” Sorry, Ms. Chang, but ten years later I remain too lazy for that, so I’m ignoring one of the basic rules of good writing to just tell you that I love food. Check out my yelp reviews if you don’t believe me, or are in the mood to read a pretentious snot’s judgement on a number of restaurants. Link to my yelp account.
One of the hardest questions to answer as a foodie is “What’s your all-time favorite dish?” Truthfully, I have so many, and the list changes over time, but Cacio e Pepe always makes the top three. Not to unveil myself as a member of the millenial FOMO generation, but if you haven’t tried it you are MISSING OUT and need to rectify your oversight immediately (please take me with you!). Cacio e pepe is an exceptionally simple dish: pasta, cheese (usually pecorino romano), olive oil, and loads of black pepper. In recent years it’s become quite trendy, though still tough to find on most Italian menus.
What I love best is about the dish is its simplicity. The dish entirely relies upon the quality of ingredients used. If the pasta is fresh and al dente, if the cheese is high quality, if the oil is spicy and fruity, if the butter is great, if the pepper is freshly ground, and if the chef isn’t a total moron, then the dish is sublime. If the ingredients aren’t good, there is no masala powder or fancy cooking technique to cover up subpar fundamentals — a bad cacio e pepe is always gross.
I’ve had a number of cacio e pepe’s in Mumbai, and they’ve all been horrible disappointments — until today! Enter Botticino, a restaurant on the second floor of the Trident BKC, and home to my new favorite cacio e pepe. My eyes watered at the price (the bill came to 1300 / 1400 rupees for just one dish at lunch), but the full-on waterworks began once I tasted the cacio e pepe. Yes, it was that good. And yes, I cry about food.
Butter-peppery bliss apparently unlocks my inner philosopher, as while eating I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that the dish represented everything I wanted in 2018: simple, with a focus on the basics. For the past year, I’d numbed the tastebuds of my life by adding in lots of unnecessary spices: travel, new restaurants, and shows. And while those are all good ingredients that add a little something extra and are good for Instagram feeds, they’re not the basics that enable the magic of a dish like cacio e pepe. That joy comes only from simple, high quality ingredients: solid relationships, an invigorating job, and vibrant health.
In 2018, I’m committing to making sure the basic ingredients of my life are as high quality as possible. I’m unsure what tangibly achieving this requires (if you know, please help a sister out). I suspect it involves saying no to many of the immediate gratifications so readily available to me, and saying yes to calling my parents even when I’m tired, exercising even when I don’t feel like it, and staying abreast of available career opportunities. I hope that by doing so, I can confidently claim at this time next year that my life tastes as much like cacio e pepe as possible — so good it brings tears to my eyes.