Our family is big on food traditions. Friday nights mean dinner at the Yellow Sub. Breakfast at Grandma’s house means chocolate covered donuts. Christmas morning means oyster stew, and any good picnic most definitely needs pasta salad.
Jay’s birthday is next week, and he chose a family trip to Peaks of Otter picnic area tomorrow to celebrate. Since a picnic means pasta salad, and it just wouldn’t be right for Jay to do all the work for his birthday lunch, I had to make it. Tonight as I boiled, chopped, and mixed, I couldn’t help but think about how Jay won me over with this pasta salad 9 years ago.
See, I lived a pretty sheltered food life growing up. When half of your family members refuse to eat all but one fruit or vegetable (and I’m not even exaggerating, folks), there are a pretty limited number of meals that can be served in your house. I came to college never having tried pretty normal things like pineapple, spinach, mushrooms, Chinese food, and baked beans.
I started dating Jay the summer before my senior year of college. He had yet to learn that I had some pretty strange and picky eating habits when he planned and prepared a fancy dinner for me one evening. I’ll never forget his momentary look of disappointment when I told him I wouldn’t be trying his shrimp cocktail that he had slaved over. (He wants you to know that he double seared the shrimp, and the cocktail sauce was not from a jar. He was really trying to impress me!) I say momentary, because then he realized that meant more for him, and he got over it pretty quickly.
Luckily I didn’t hold the shrimp against him, and I gave him another chance to cook for me. He planned a picnic for us and again prepared everything himself. He brought us cracked pepper turkey sandwiches and pasta salad. I can’t say for sure whether or not I had ever had pasta salad before that, but a turkey sandwich was definitely more my speed. Let’s just say, I think I ate enough pasta salad that day for at least four people. It was amazing.
There’s that saying about the key to a guy’s heart is through stomach, but I think this has got to be at least partially true for girls too. He won me over that day in a big way. The lunch and then a walk down by the train tracks…it was all perfect. Sure, there are other things he did that summer that made me know he was a keeper like washing my dishes, taking my car to get it fixed, and playing countless hands of cards. But the memories of that particular picnic are a little less fuzzy than many of the other memories. That clarity is definitely thanks to the pasta salad.
So, nine years later he still does the dishes, takes care of my car, and makes a mean pasta salad. I know the bowl I made for tomorrow is nowhere near as good as that first batch, but it has brought up lots of good memories just the same. Happy Birthday, Jay.
In case there’s somebody that you are trying to get to fall in love with you, here’s the recipe. Don’t make it unless you are serious about that person because it really works. It goes best with turkey sandwiches on a paper plate.
Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad
1 box of mini shell pasta
5 green onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small cucumber
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
1 Italian dressing seasoning mix pouch
apple cider vinegar
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. While it cooks, dice up the onions, peppers, and cucumber. Chop the cilantro. Mix the Italian dressing by following the directions on the package with one exception: use half apple cider vinegar and half balsamic vinegar. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and cool it off using cold water and/or ice cubes. When the pasta is cool, add the chopped vegetables, cilantro, and about ¾ of the Italian dressing. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate for a few hours. Right before serving, cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pasta.