For a long time, I felt that I wasn’t good at meditation. In my mind, meditation meant that I was sitting cross legged, hands gently resting on my thighs, palms up, head clear, breathing in and out slowly and purposely without letting my mind wander of falling asleep. Whether it was guided or unguided, I felt like even 5 minutes was too long for me. Not only did I always feel like I didn’t have time to meditate, when I could find the time, I couldn’t even sit still for the short duration. Thinking that this type of meditation wasn’t for me, I knew I needed a different solution. And that’s when I stumbled upon the idea of cooking meditation.
Cooking is an activity that inherently requires us to be fully present. After all, if you’re not fully present while chopping vegetables, you might just cut your fingers off. You have to be fully present to put the right amount of salt and seasoning in your food, you have to be present not to burn dinner, and you most definitely have to be present while measuring ingredients for baked goods. Not only does it require full presence, it also allows for connection. To me, cooking provides me with a way to connect. I connect with food through my hands, and I use food and cooking to connect with others. It’s an activity that is both productive and creative, purposeful and meaningful. When we fully engage in cooking, we engage with all of our senses – our sense of smell, taste, sight, touch and even sound.
When I think about all of my favorite hobbies and things to do, cooking ranks up there as probably my favorite thing to do in the world. I love cooking for myself and my husband, entertaining our friends, or challenging myself to make something new and exciting. Cooking satisfies my soul in a way that nothing else does. It provides me and the people I love with nourishment and pleasure; it satisfies the the mind, body and soul. It calms me down after a long day of work, and it gives me the space to be creative and to enjoy beauty and excellence.
So, of course, one of my favorite youtube stars is Andrew Rea, or Oliver Babish from Binging with Babish. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s basically short tutorials and recreations of recipes from television and movies. In one episode, Babish makes il timpano, a baked pasta dish filled with meatballs, boiled eggs, red sauce and garganelli. As soon as I watched the episode, I knew I wanted to make garganelli one day.
A few weeks ago, I finally got my chance to make homemade garganelli – a tubular shaped hand rolled pasta that requires fresh pasta sheets being cut into small squares 2×2 squares, folded on a wooden dowel and rolled on a small wooden comb called a pettine. Similar to their less glamorous cousin, penne, garganelli differs in that a “flap” is visible where one corner of the pasta square adheres to the rest, as opposed to a perfect cylinder in penne.
To understand this specialty of Emilia-Romaga, I read a cookbook called Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. Aliza described garganelli as coming from the Italian word garganeli, meaning a chicken’s gullet, or “gargle” in English. The dough contains a healthy amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly grated nutmeg, giving it a speckled appearance and a delicious smell. The dough is slightly moist but pretty firm, and has the texture of a nice cool playdoh.
Here I am, rolling out dough using this awesome kitchen-aid pasta tool. It’s an absolute must have for all your homemade pasta sheets, and it’s 100x easier than using a traditional hand crank pasta machine. Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, I used a ruler and a fluted pasta cutter to cut the dough into 2×2 squares. This particular cutter could cut either a fluted or straight pattern.
Though immensely tedious, I gave my full concentration on each of those fluted square shapes, taking the time to gently place each one on the dowel and rolling it onto the board just so- that the tiny ridges formed and the edges sealed perfectly, resulting in a perfectly shaped garganello. Sliding the tube gently off the dowel, I reached for the next piece of square dough.
The gentle yet firm folding technique on the board that creates the grooves in the pasta and seals the edges. Each completed garganello brought me a little bit of joy.
The purposeful balance of being not too light- as to not stamp on the ridges and give the dough a proper seal, or too heavy- which would make the dough stick on the dowel and in the board was my only task. With each gargenello, I improved my technique. It was as natural as breathing, yet it required sheer concentration. When one didn’t come out as perfect as the others, I simply noted it, letting the pasta gently slide onto a wooden board without judgement. Soon, a portion’s worth of garganelli was laid in front of me. I kept going. 6 portions later, I was done. A few hours must had passed. I’m not sure exactly how much time had elapsed, but I felt so calm, so satisfied, a container of perfectly formed hand rolled pasta sitting in front of me. I had just meditated for hours and didn’t even realize it. My mind had been clear, completely in focus. My hands moved organically yet purposefully. I had entered into a complete flow state, where I lost track of time, the temperature, hunger or thirst. I was fully absorbed in this beautiful activity of making pasta.
Once I got into the grove of this activity, I completely lost track of time. 6-8 portions of garganelli, all done.
When it comes to mindfulness, I believe in doing what works for you. What calms your mind? What makes you feel completely at ease? What activity can you do where you feel completely absorbed, where you enter the flow zone? Where your hands, mind, and heart are all connected and fully engaged? For me, it’s making this labor intensive, beautiful pasta. If you don’t believe me, try it! It might just work for you too.
The second best part of this mindfulness activity: eating it.
Want to try making garganelli? Here are the tools that you’ll need.