I don’t have many jobs in the kitchen. My main chores involve grating cheese and cleaning up after Kate uses every dish in the house on Sunday evenings making our food for the week. Occasionally I’m trusted with bigger jobs, like finishing dinner on a night Kate will be home late, or preparing cocktails (I make a mean Manhattan and I prefer my Hot Toddies to most others I’ve tried). But no matter how good I might be in the kitchen when given the chance, I’m not really sure Kate trusts me with her favorite cooking tools. I suspect she’d prefer if I only use her good knives, or her food processor while she’s in the kitchen to make sure I’m not using them wrong. The exception to the rule, though, is the pasta maker. And not because I actually use the pasta maker, but because it’s a real tool. As such, it was actually designed to be maintained, rather than just used until it breaks. And being the more technically savvy of the two of us, maintenance of the pasta maker is my job.
It’s fair, too, given how much I love what the pasta maker allows Kate to make. I don’t know if I was actually living until I’d had fresh pasta. It’s an amazing thing that everyone should experience. For starters, fresh pasta takes only a few minutes to cook, mostly just heating up in the boiling water. Though I do realize that discounts all the work that goes into actually making the noodles, Kate is fond of telling me she can make those in the time it takes the water to boil, so I don’t think of it as that much work. Perhaps I am starting to take her skill in the kitchen for granted. At any rate, it’s worth the extra work. Fresh noodles soak up the sauce you add to them, and can be pretty amazing with just some cheese and olive oil on them. No matter how perfectly al dente you mange to make pasta from a box, it just can’t compare. I will certainly acknowledge that homemade dried pasta is worlds better than boxed noodles, but I still can’t help my preference for the fresh stuff.
There’s a reason that Kate has gotten so good at making fresh pasta. Namely, that she makes it all the time. There aren’t many weeks that go by, especially in the cooler months, that we don’t have some kind of pasta. Sometimes the pasta maker just stays secured to its corner of the kitchen counter between cooking days, waiting for its next use. I would guess that Kate’s pasta maker has seen more use than most see in a lifetime of service. Which is why I’m glad it was made so sturdily. In a world where most modern tools, including kitchen tools, are made with a lot of plastic, this particular tool is almost entirely steel. And it actually comes apart. About once every year or two, it needs what I would call heavy maintenance. In daily use, it’s supposed to just be wiped down. But with as much as it’s used, it inevitably gets bits of dried pasta stuck in the wheels, and the gears stop turning with ease the way that once had. This is where I come in.
This afternoon, after being informed that we wouldn’t have any more pasta until I finished the job, I undertook the latest overhaul. Years of working on my bikes and cars hardly prepared me for the number of small pieces and parts that make up the roller units. It’s amazing how such a simple looking tool can be so complicated inside. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the chore I had overhauling an the old coaster brake wheel on Kate’s 1971 Schwinn Breeze. At any rate, I managed to get everything apart, taking a few cell phone pictures just in case I couldn’t remember where some parts went. And though reassembly does make be a bit nervous, I am always stunned at how well made and designed such a simple kitchen tool is. There are only a few screws, and many of the parts are held together by the few bolts that go through the whole unit. It’s almost a work of art in itself. After taking a moment to admire the workmanship, I cleaned every piece individually, lubed the gears with olive oil (seemed appropriate given it’s a pasta maker), and set out to the task of reassembly. I’m proud to say, it all made it back together without a hitch, and looks just like it did when it came out of the box new. I didn’t even manage to have any parts left over. I suppose I should reserve final judgement until Kate actually uses it again, so I’ll save my back patting for another day. But my work in the kitchen for today is now done. And I can hopefully look forward to having pasta again soon.