Combing through the upcoming list of cooking classes being offered by The Chopping Block, I came across our Pasta Workshop. The class description says that I will learn how to make fresh pasta dough from scratch and create noodles of all shapes and sizes, along with discovering how to prepare simple, seasonal sauces to accompany my pasta. Pasta Workshop is just one of several pasta-themed classes we offer, including a Pasta Boot Camp. There is a class for everyone!
As I clicked the mouse to sign up for the class, I instantly recalled one particular night many years in my past where pasta made all the difference in the world to me. I want to reflect for a moment on a restaurant in Washington, D.C. that unfortunately closed back in 2007, The Childe Harold.
The 4-story, brick restaurant and saloon was located just north of Dupont Circle on 20th Street, NW - a stone's throw from the bustling shopping/nightlife on Connecticut Avenue. Askew of the regular walking track, it was a place of destination for those who knew its incredibly rich history. At its creation in 1967, the Childe Harold was christened for a Lord Byron poem celebrating a young man's world travels.
Having no clue about the place, I accidentally made this location the first place I took myself out to dinner when I moved to DC in September 1995. I’d recently graduated from college and moved from my parents’ house following a final summer of being a kid. I’d moved into my new, sparsely-furnished basement apartment on Capitol Hill and I was set to begin my new job the following morning. So to celebrate the commencement of adulthood and responsibility, I wanted to do something that, at that point in time, was only being done in a metropolitan city: eat dinner outside on a covered patio while drinking a glass of wine and reading a book.
Missing all of my college friends at that point and feeling a bit homesick for family and ANYTHING familiar, I looked for a place that would offer me a little comfort while still allowing me to celebrate the fact that I was now oh-so-very cosmopolitan, at least in my opinion.
The food, plain ol’ spaghetti and meatballs, satisfied my hunger; the glass of red wine was a tip-o'-the-hat to my alcoholic melancholic college days; and the book, "Chicken Soup for the Soul", was to ease my homesickness.
In retrospect, I could have stopped anywhere for dinner that night at any one of the uncountable restaurants in that area. But it's interesting that I unwittingly chose this place; a place named for a poem that describes the travels and reflections of a young man who leaves behind a known life for discoveries elsewhere. Both the fictional Harold and I were young men who had lived lives of pleasure and revelry, now looking for distractions in foreign lands. How interesting it is when art imitates our lives, and/or vice versa. Sometimes without us ever really knowing it.
Food does that for us. There are foods that will instantly comfort us, remind us of better days, safer times, happier moments. And sure, it’s easy to open a box and dump pasta into a pot of boiling water, but that’s what the young man in 1995 would have done. The older, ahem – mature - man today will make his own pasta. Because regardless of who I cook for, I’ll be making a comforting memory upon which to reflect in years to come. Even if I’m the only one at the table.
Join us for an upcoming session of Pasta Workshop:
- Saturday, June 16 10am Merchandise Mart
- Monday, June 25 6:30pm Merchandise Mart
- Sunday, July 1 11am Merchandise Mart
- Saturday, July 14 10am Merchandise Mart
- Sunday, July 22 10am Lincoln Square