By Lorrie Baumann
A colleague of mine at Oser Communications Group has asked me to review a recipe for Pasta with Jam Sauce concocted by Mr. West Collins and demonstrated in a YouTube video that can be seen at http://youtu.be/90tZUltzRBc. She asked me to respond to the video as a professional writer on matters of culinaria, based on my experience as editorial director of Gourmet News, the business newspaper of the specialty food industry, and Kitchenware News & Housewares Review magazine, as part of her participation in GISHWHES as a member of Team CommorientLoves6RMartial Arts.
Collins’ recipe calls for canned pasta sauce, carrot juice, Goldfish crackers and a whole apple with several bites out of it, which of course does not adhere to our traditional notions of how to make a great pasta sauce. It must be said, though, that there are certainly more recipes for pasta sauce out there than there have ever been pasta cooks to concoct them, so we must not accept without question the notion that Collins’ recipe is entirely new to the world.
We recreated the recipe in our editorial office with Hunt’s all-natural tomato sauce, which does not include added sugar; Polaner strawberry spreadable fruit, which is sweetened only with fruit juice; Bolthouse Farms carrot juice; Pepperidge Farm’s Baked Goldfish crackers, flavor blasted with “Xplosive Pizza + Parmesan” for a little bit of Italian flavoring; and a Red Delicious apple, which was removed when the pasta was served on elbow macaroni from a carton of Kraft macaroni and cheese.
The results admittedly fall short of our expectations for a fine Italian pasta sauce, due primarily to the ingredient choices, which could have been improved. However, ingredients are just one element in a successful culinary experience. Other necessary elements include technique and tools. Collins’ video demonstrates that he had available to him the essential tools of a modern American home kitchen, although it is also apparent that his technique with them is not expert. Clearly, that will benefit from future experiments in the kitchen and additional instruction from a knowledgeable cook with more culinary experience than he.
With quality ingredients, adequate tools and a firm grasp of basic technique, any cook can put an edible meal on the table. But putting an exceptional meal on the table calls for something else: the creativity born of imagination and a willingness to experiment. And that, Collins brings in abundance.
That being the case, the actual taste of the dish that results from Collins’ recipe is almost irrelevant. In any case, the sauce made from his recipe is not all that different from a nationally distributed brand that has certainly turned a profit over the years. What Collins is really serving up here, along with his Pasta with Jam Sauce, is fun. That the adults around him encouraged his experiment fostered his creativity and culinary courage. That they recorded it and shared it with us allows us also to have a taste of the fun.
However, if you are looking for your own opportunity to cook up a playful take on an Italian classic, I would suggest some experiments with the Maple Bacon Aioli recently released by Stonewall Kitchen, a premium product that you’ll find in a specialty grocery or gourmet store. Stonewall Kitchen sent me a couple of jars to sample and review, and I recently tried it out as a pizza sauce with good results. I used a prepared pizza crust from Trader Joe’s, rolled it out and spread it with the aioli, then topped it with chopped roast chicken and mozzarella cheese and baked it. Delicious!