Perciatelli pasta with brothy asparagus, roasted pepper & olive sauce

Asparagus and red pepper sauce for pasta

Asparagus and red pepper sauce for pasta

Well, I survived another mother’s day lunch shift as a waitress. Nine hours with no break at all, literally not one second to sit down. I’ll pause for a moment so that you can shed a small tear for my plight. Aw, it’s not so bad. This is a fairly typical shift for the restaurant business, and it certainly suits me better than a job at which you can’t do anything but sit! I like the non-stop pace, I like being active, I enjoy talking to people. But it was tiring, and by the end of the day I stood in the middle of the restaurant yelling, “I’M A MOTHER TOO, DAMMIT! SOMEBODY HAD BETTER BUY ME A GLASS OF WINE RIGHT NOW!!” And when I walked Isaac to school this morning, and joined a group of parents talking about their mother’s day celebrations, I said, “I spent nine hours serving mothers lunch, and let me tell you, mothers are horrible people.” Heh heh, I can say that, because I am a mother! I’m kidding once again, of course. Mothers are wonderful people, each and every one of them. But mother’s day is widely recognized in the restaurant business as a particularly difficult day. You walk away from it bewildered by just now needy everybody is. Why is this? You ask yourself, as you walk home on tired feet. Why do people seem so needy on mother’s day? Maybe it’s because mothers are as needy as everyone else, but we have to suppress that neediness 364 days of the year, and on the one day we’re told by the media and the greeting card companies that somebody should take care of us, we’re going to squeeze every drop of sympathy and attention we can get. Because mothering, though it is a gratifying and demanding job, is not a very well-rewarded job in the usual ways that jobs are considered rewarding. We have no pay, no awards, no performance-reviews, no gold stars, no bonuses, no free gifts, no paid vacations, no benefits, no gala luncheons. We do have people who don’t listen when we talk to them, who keep us up all night when they’re sick, who expect us to feed them even when we’re sick, who act embarrassed when we talk to them in front of their friends, who shudder visibly when we try to feed them delicious foods that we’ve worked on for hours. And most of the time, that’s fine. Isaac has had some sort of stomach virus the last few days, and I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep, but I’ve been thinking that it’s sort of perfect for mother’s day weekend, because it makes you realize how good it feels to be needed by someone, to actually make somebody feel better if you rub their back or cuddle with them, to love someone so much that you’re always glad to hear them call your name, even at 3 in the morning (and 4 in the morning, and 6 in the morning…). So if a mother wants to fuss a little when her family takes her out, and be sure the meal is exactly as she likes it, and that her water has precisely the right number of ice cubes and lemon slices, more power to her!! If she wants to send something back because it’s not just the way she ordered it, that’s fine–she should have the perfect meal. If she wants proof that somebody is actually listening to her, even if it’s a stranger in an apron and stupid white shoes, I’m okay with that.
For mother’s day Isaac gave me a hand-print flower glued into a flowerpot made of brown construction paper. It was quite a big flowerpot, and I believe he was supposed to fill the whole thing with a poem. In his usual wise and simple way, he wrote, “I love my mom because she’s my mom.” And that sort of says it all. It defies rational expectation, but it’s true–we love our moms because they’re our moms. Because in reality all moms aren’t wonderful people, and no mom is always wonderful, but children have a remarkably elastic and forgiving sort of love, and most of the time, that’s reward enough.

Both of my boys actually liked this meal! I made long tube-shaped pasta called perciatelli. Like spaghetti, but with a hole in it. I wanted to make a brothy sauce to go with it, so I made this concoction of asparagus, roasted red peppers, olives and capers. It’s got white wine and lots of herbs, and a little bit of tomatoes. The boys used the pasta like a straw to suck up the broth, but they ate all the vegetables as well, miracle of miracles.

Here’s Goody Mob with Soul Food

Looking to be one of dem days
When Momma ain’t cooking
Everybody’s out hunting with tha family
Looking for a little soul food


2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 bay leaves
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 t basil
1 t sage
2 t rosemary
(I used dried herbs, because it’s May, but if you have fresh, by all means add them! I’d add the basil at the very end, if I had fresh, and I’d add lots of it!)
1/2 cup white wine
1 t raw or brown sugar
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
2 t capers, chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and very finely chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes (Canned or fresh)
1 cup asparagus, finely chopped
1 T butter
1 t balsamic vinegar
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bay leaves and pepper flakes, the shallot and the garlic. Cook till the shallot and garlic start to brown. Add the herbs, stir and cook for half a minute, then add the wine and sugar. Cook to reduce to a syrup. Add the olives and capers. Cook and stir. Add the pepper and tomatoes, stir and cook, breaking everything up with your spoon or stirrer as you go. Add about 1/2 cup of water, and keep cooking until the pan is nearly dry. Add about a cup of water and the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is tender-crisp. The mixture should be nice and brothy, so add a bit more water if it’s too dry.

Stir in the butter and balsamic, the salt and pepper. Serve over pasta or rice, with a good crusty bread to sop up all the good broth.

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16 thoughts on “Perciatelli pasta with brothy asparagus, roasted pepper & olive sauce

  1. On your feet for nine hours without a break? steenbeck, please forgive me for repeating myself but, if there are really no jobs in Lambertville better suited to your talents, are there at least employers who care a bit about their staff? (Plus over here that’s illegal.)

    • TFD, it’s not so bad. The shifts aren’t usually that long–mother’s day is special! Ordinarily if you’re there that long you get a break. It’s okay for now–I like the people I work with, most of the time. I shouldn’t complain so much!!

      • Of course you should complain, if your working conditions are so bad. It’s not as though they pay you a fortune, now, is it?

      • Well, I should stop complaining on here! I wasn’t complaining, really. We have laws here, too, but for some reason restaurants seem to be largely exempt from them. The thing is, you can’t stop in the middle of waiting on a table and say, “I’m going rest my feet for half an hour, talk amongst yourselves.” So it’s not just the restaurant I’m working at now, it’s most restaurants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the same in the UK, although they’re not working for tips in the same way. You take the good with the bad, and for me, there’s always been a lot of good in waiting tables (obviously, since I’ve been doing it for two decades, on and off.) I do believe I have a certain talent for it!

    • My apologies: I didn’t mean to imply that I think waiting tables is not a worthwhile skill, and I do indeed believe you are very good at it. But it made me boiling mad to read your piece and I know sometimes your customers aren’t very nice, but I’m sure most of them would have been horrified to realise what kind of day you were having. I wouldn’t like to eat in a restaurant where the staff were treated like that.

      • Obviously I wrote this very poorly! I didn’t mean to complain about my job, which I would never do on my blog. I’m going to attempt a re-write!

      • You write too well, so that we can feel the aching feet and our ankles swelling as we read it ! Also the good feeling that you helped some mothers feel the centre of the world for a little while.

  2. That sounds delicious. Sorry I didn’t manage to think of a song for the playlist in time for the end of your shift, and I hope Isaac’s better soon.

    • Thanks, DaddyPig! No worries about the playlist. I had an oddly hard time thinking of songs about mothers, myself. At least thinking of relatively cheerful songs!

      • I thought of “Sorry Miss Jackson” by Outkast. When it was being played all the time on the radio, two DJs, Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley, read out a response, along the lines of:

        Dear Outkast,
        Many thanks for your apology for making my daughter cry. But I’d be most grateful if you’d stop going on about it now. It’s OK. Yours, Miss Jackson.

      • Hee hee!! I do love the song, though. It’s rare to hear rock-star types apologize for anything! And I think it’s heartfelt, and catchy.

      • OK, I’ve added it ! I like it too, but I didn’t so much then. And my turn to apologise a zillion times, it’s Ms. Jackson…

  3. Oh no. Maybe, I should not type this. But here i go. Sometimes mom’s scare me.

    Many mothers are very special, kind and thoughtful. Some are not so, and I had a run of such scary mom encounters for a time.

    When I was younger, i remember friends and acquaintances having babies and suddenly becoming fierce, losing their ideals, kindness, and consideration. Somehow, they became more important than the earth, wind, flowers, trees, and, any of us around them. They bought a lot of plastic without much thought.

    Once a friend with-child in a taxi told the driver to slow down because a pregnant woman was on board. I frowned. Why was her life more important than the rest of us on board?

    Yan Jing was the sweetest soul. Never growled at a soul. Never bought plaatic. When she had her pups, a slightly fierce side of her emerged. The first time I heard her growl was when Kathy and Patches (cats), approached her bed as she nursed her babes.

    I guess mom’s have to be scary now and then.

    I wish all creatures could be praised for their fierceness, no matter who they protect and nourish.

    I hope you had a nice foot bath and a good rest-cure after your shift.

    • Diane, never worry about typing a comment at The Ordinary!! all your thoughts are more than welcome here.

      I was being facetious (wow, did I actually spell that right?) about all moms being wonderful. Some are actually really horrible. But their kids probably still love them just because they’re their mom, along with the hate and anger. And you’re right…everybody is always the center of their own universe, but somehow procreating can make people feel like they should be the center of everybody else’s universe as well. I think that feeling wears off, though, as your kids grow and you start to see them as part of something bigger. I dunno!

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