I first read about I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti while browsing through an article online in The New York Times Home & Garden section about the author Giulia Melucci. The description of her recently released book full of recipes and dating mishaps sounded like a dream come true for my chick lit and cookbook skewed bookshelves and if the number of times I found myself shaking my head in agreement, frowning in solidarity, and laughing out loud are any indication then it absolutely didn’t disappoint.
I’m sure many people are beginning to think that the popularity of personal narratives accompanied by recipes may have past their expiration date but in all honesty I adore this format. I feel that it allows these intimate stories a more interactive feel. This is doubly true for this novel in particular as not only are there scores of simple and elegant dishes that you can prepare with a minimal amount of fuss, but also, in addition, dozens and dozens of songs and musical artists are brought up in the text too as each relationship unfolds. Personally I know that there are definitely both foods and songs that will always remind me of certain men (good, bad, or indifferent) and I found the artful weaving of both of these items into the memoir very poignant. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to Giulia Melucci’s playlist right now.
The men Giulia dates in the novel are changed a bit to protect the “innocent” but I can’t help but speculate that the character of Mitch, who is described as having written a novel “about a fifteen-year-old girl who really wants to have sex with some guy in a band” and that the book was optioned for a film that went straight to video is probably author Blake Nelson. Unless Giulia is completely screwing with us (which is of course a possibility and I could be completely wrong) I’m inclined to believe that the book she’s referring to is Girl and the film version starring Dominique Swain and Sean Patrick Flanery did in fact go straight to video. I kind of hope I’m right about my speculation just because I love the novel Girl, not to mention that it was actually the first item I ever purchased on Amazon.com way back when I was a freshman in college. But I digress.
While I usually find myself skipping over recipes in novels (but always marking them in some manner so that I can go back to examine them at another time) you absolutely cannot allow yourself to skip over the recipes featured in I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti as they actually are part of the novel. Interspersed amongst the ingredients and directions are clever quips like “Do not over mix, as this will make for tough cupcakes and you’ve suffered enough” or “I would add 1 teaspoon of vanilla or a little orange zest, and you should, too, but not if you’re dating Mitch Smith.” Even the titles are charmingly irresistible: Ineffectual Eggplant Parmesan, Italian Grilled Cheese for Teenage WASPs, and my personal favorite the Fuck-You Cakes.
Overall this is a highly enjoyable novel that accurately, humorously, and humbly portrays what honest to goodness dating is all about. In the end I couldn’t help myself and I whipped up the Hot Pink Cake (that Giulia makes for Mitch on Valentine’s Day) for a belated birthday gift for CK’s sister Brittany. Now my copy is covered in chocolate cake batter, but my kitchen smells heavenly.
Hot Pink Cake
Adapted from Giulia Melucci’s novel I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder (the better the quality, the better the cake; I am devoted to Valrhona, but Hershey’s is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, left out of the fridge for about 30 minutes
1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour twp 8-inch baking pans and line with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until all ingredients are combined and the cocoa bits are smoothed out. Stir in the boiling water. Pour batter into pans and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to cooking racks. Wait until the cakes have cooled completely before frosting.
For the Frosting:
1 stick very soft butter
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
A little too much red food dye
Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer at low speed until creamy. Add more milk if necessary. The trick is for the icing to be not too thin and not too goopy.
Something always goes wrong for me aesthetically when I make this cake, but it’s always delicious.