Breakfast noodles with ham

I have this recipe I’ve started to share several times in the past. I keep stopping, however, because I can’t recall the source.

You see, I got it from a book. A cookbook of sorts, even. In the book the author spent time with several chefs around the US and shares a recipe or two from them along with some discussion, and in some cases presents a recipe or two of his own done at the same time. That describes, by the way, a LOT of books. This was the only recipe that stood out, however. It stood out because it was easy but elegant. And I can’t go hunting the book because I don’t own it.

It’s a disadvantage of libraries. If you move, you can’t go to that library. As a consequence you can’t use kinesthetic senses and other associated memory techniques to help you find That Book. Either you recall author or title or you’re reduced to crawling the stacks HOPING the new library owns a copy and something (color, size, a key word) will catch your attention.

One of the subsets of the information professional world is organization of information. I’ll use an even smaller subset of that for example – your library shelves. You see, in the end the numbers on the spine are just to help you find the book for which you’re looking. We could arrange (as libraries of old did) by purchase order. We could organize by size or color as well. Libraries exist that organize by author’s last name (nonfiction as well as fiction). But when we went from closed to open libraries, it became much better for the users (see Ranganathan‘s rule four) if we organized by subject. Among other things this allows for serendipitous discovery – discovery of a gem while seeking something else, though in this case something related. The problem, of course, is the difficulty of sorting what subject should apply to most books. You see, most books discuss more than one subject. Take for example a book that’s about the culture of Spain – with a few scores for the music and recipes for the food. Does it belong in the geography section? The music, the cooking? Well, yes to all. Depending on a bit more detail than I’ve provided it’ll end up in the 300s or 900s in a Dewey library, but the others are there.

Now there are many attempts at solutions, but they’re all pretty close to impossible to do on the shelves with the books themselves. As an example of some that would work, when I was earning my masters degree I roughed out what my PhD dissertation would be – I was going to develop yet another classification method. To keep it very, very simplistic I’d have ended up with what we know today as a ‘tag cloud’ for each book. When you search a term (or terms) you’d get the book(s) that met all and some of your terms, arranged visually so you could see what did and did not meet. You’d pick, and then would get a list of where they were on the shelves. Lots and lots (and lots) of work on the part of catalogers making for much more ease on the part of the users. I didn’t take that route so hadn’t the time nor assets to properly develop it – something I’ve regretted a time or two. But again, that’s just one example as there are others who’ve developed methods of trying to help you find the items that you need despite their placement on the physical shelves.

And that takes me back to searching for this book. You see, none of the standard classification schemes would help me find it. In fact, my classification cloud wouldn’t help much, either; not as originally proposed. A full classification might – if you ever looked at library cards in a fully developed system you’d have noticed the cards mentioned color of binding and size of book and a host of also-relevant terms that applied. In a few libraries that were VERY well-staffed by catalogers you might also find a brief synopsis with a set of cards indexed to the key terms of the synopsis as well. Since that takes time and that takes money and people don’t really want to pay ahead for what will save them in the long run, that was rare – but it would have helped me find the book. Provided, of course, that I was using such a library. As it is, I anticipate I’ll only find the book by accident. As a consequence, I cannot tell you the person who developed this recipe, or write him (yes, I recall that) to tell him how much I enjoy it or the minor modifications I’ve done to it that he might appreciate or give proper attribution or, well, anything. But the recipe is too good to let it disappear, so I’ve decided to share. So we come to the conclusion of this trip with the recipe.

You will need a quarter cup or so of diced ham, a couple tablespoons of butter, an egg, and a serving of pasta. Once the water for the pasta is boiling, start it. Three to five minutes before the pasta will be done, brown the butter, warm the ham in the butter, and put both in the bottom of your serving bowl. When the pasta is done strain it into the serving bowl. Immediately break the egg into the bowl and stir the entire contents together. The egg will make a creamy sauce – if it’s a bit dry, add just a bit of water in which you boiled the pasta.

Sometimes I’ll add a bit of black pepper. Sometimes I’ll add a tablespoon of grated parmesan or romano. Sometimes I’ll lightly mousse the egg – that is, separate, beat the white till it forms soft peaks, mix the egg with the browned butter and ham separately, then fold together – and add the noodles to that. But the basic recipe is very, very good and I’m content to make and eat it without change as well.

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