In some ways, music and food are very similar. Both can transport us to earlier times. A well-loved song or a certain dish can remind us of a beloved place or a long lost friend. The other night, I put on a Lucinda Williams CD to listen to while I was doing dishes. The last song took me by surprise. I hadn’t listened to this album in quite awhile, and I had forgotten which songs were on there–but when Lucinda started singing “Which Will,” a song written by English singer/songwriter Nick Drake, I felt myself become full of sentimental nostalgia. Right away I was transported back to a dorm room in Bremen, Germany, twenty-seven years ago. A good friend of mine had sent me a mix tape (that shows my age!) when I was studying in Germany, and the song “Which Will” was on that tape. Because I had brought just a small amount of things with me for my seven months studying abroad, I listened to that tape over and over. Immediately, I thought of the friend who had sent me the tape, because it was so comforting to receive music when I was far from home. And then I thought of my time in Germany, and what I was often doing when that song was in the background: daydreaming, cooking, eating, and having great conversations. I was staying at that time in a dorm full of international students, all of whom were learning German. I became good friends with a woman from Colombia, and we often cooked and ate dinner together. I can remember evenings sitting at a tiny table with mismatched chairs, listening to the rain spattering the street. We would often invite other students walking down the hall to come in and eat with us, as we were all practicing our German speaking skills and learning about the different cultures gathered in the dorm. One of our standard meals was the pasta dish posted below. I don’t believe this dish is particularly German, Colombian, or American, but it is so easy, colorful, and nourishing, and anyone can make it, even two international students on a tight budget in a tiny dorm kitchen, communicating in a language that is not their own. It is kind of a meal borne of necessity, but enjoyed to the fullest because of its simplicity and quality ingredients. It’s also a great meal for busy people who come home from a long day and don’t have a lot of time to make a complicated dinner, which is why this meal is still relevant in my life today. Good food and music are warm and comforting on a cold, dark, rainy evening, and we had many of those in northern Germany in wintertime, and we are experiencing them at this time of year here as well.
Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, and Sausage
- 12 ounces of pasta, any kind
- 8 ounces of high-quality kielbasa or bratwurst, sliced in bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup spinach
- 4-8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta as directed in salted, boiling water. While pasta is cooking, slice the sausage, tomatoes, and cheese. When pasta is just tender, drain in a colander. In the same pot, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage slices for about 5 minutes, or until they are browned. Add the pasta to the pot, and then add the cheese, tomatoes, and spinach. Stir until combined, and the cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!