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The Noodleman’s Gambit, With Dan Pashman

Some tagliatelle being made in Bologna, Italy, in 2018.
Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

The experience of living under the lowered ceilings of The Plague Times is itself old enough that it has become easy to miss the other ways in which it has spun the clock forward. In the enforced absence of the supposedly fun things I have generally done less and less often in my Early Old Guy Years—the parties, shows, or even slightly overdone happy hours that were more or less the whole of my social life for two decades—my life has taken on some objectively elderly aspects. I spend a lot of time with my wife and hardly any with anyone else. We take walks to the park and look at birds and creep on the dog run and talk about work or whatever is bothering us, and then we come home and make dinner. We have done this, and more or less only this, for a year now.

For whatever residual shame might be attached to it, I can’t say I was surprised at how much I found myself looking forward to Pasta Night, which is now a night of its own. When there is only so much to look forward to, even the simpler carbohydrates start to seem like elaborate privileges. Dan Pashman, who hosts the food podcast The Sporkful, both understands and embraces this particular mania, and is currently taking it a step further by attempting to engineer and create a new and more-perfect shape of pasta. So Drew and I talked to him about that.

I always knew in my heart that it was possible for us to do an entire episode of The Distraction debating whether or not spaghetti was “good” or “actually sucked,” but I am relieved to report that this one is not it. Yes, we talked a lot about the attributes of highly effective pasta shapes, and the culture and lore of pasta in general, and the gradual losing-the-plot of that Italians Mad About Food account, but we did branch out beyond noodle-related topics.

Think of these other topics as contorni, the little plates of garlicky escarole or caponata you might get served along with the mains. Yes, most of the meal is pasta. But you will also receive some bites of nostalgia about the shitty and bizarrely accessible old days of New Jersey Sports Fandom, some impatience and dread about the NBA’s ill-starred All-Star Weekend, and a deeper appreciation of Chris Gatling’s career and post-playing arc from me than is frankly polite. I apologize for the last bit, but take no responsibility for the contents of the Funbag, which are as ever entirely your fault. The regular menu will return next week, but by all means feel free to take seconds. We must enjoy our pasta nights where we find them.

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