Chicken Curry Pasta - Dolphine Penzo '17

I spent the first ten years of my life as an only child, having only my mother. During this time, my mom was very young. She became pregnant as a teenager and took the responsibility of raising me on her own. Of course she got some help from my grandparents, but she has always been good at handling things alone. Though she had just graduated high school with a restaurant diploma, my mother was a terrible cook.  I'd say we made trips to McDonald's at least three days a week. It was rare for us to eat something that wasn't just cooked in the microwave. A lot of the times we'd eat at my grandparent’s house. She always tried her best with what we had, and having bad economy didn't help. She went from job to job, working from early mornings to late nights to try and to provide for the two of us. I was always the first child being dropped off at school, and the last one to get picked up. I used to feel bitter about this, but looking back I can't blame my mom for simply trying to make things work, month to month. I was always so proud of having the youngest mom out of my friends. I didn't see what people thought was so bad about it. She was still an amazing mom despite of her age. I remember the struggles she went through in order for me to have food on my plate. She often made sure I had something to eat, but ended up forgetting to feed herself. She didn't conventionally follow the recipes, but instead created her own dish.

It was grilled chicken bits with pasta, curry sauce and vegetables. It's one of those foods that are just as good the day after. Imagine being in your early twenties with a child that needs to be fed and you only have less than ten ingredients in your kitchen, half of which are useless. You are forced to use your imagination and improvise. She came up with this dish during a failed attempt of spaghetti and meatballs. Instead of meatballs she used chicken, instead of spaghetti she used shell shaped pasta, and instead of marinara sauce she used whatever was in our spice cabinet-which happened to be curry. Basically, she used anything that was somewhat useful and created this delicious meal we've been eating ever since. It hasn't always been the food that I enjoyed the most; but the familiarity in it, and how it has a way of making me feel at home. It’s not something I eat every Christmas or birthday, and it's not something complicated or fancy.

It's something I can forget about for a while, and suddenly feel this huge craving for from time to time. I've become rather picky about it now. I know it needs to be a ready, grilled chicken and not a frozen filé that you cook. The pepper should be green, not red or yellow even though I hate green pepper, it only works in this dish. The pasta needs to be shell shaped, because I'm convinced that any other shape tastes differently- even if it's from the same brand. Finally, the amount of curry cannot be measured, it's something that needs to be tasted throughout the process. To me, it represents the dedication and sacrifices my mom put into raising me.

As the years have gone by, and I'm not an only child anymore, none of my grandparents are alive and my mom isn't single anymore. A lot of things have changed; however, I will always appreciate the days I can spend alone with her, reminiscing of how it used to be over a bowl of her homemade pasta.

Since then, my mom has perfected the recipe and it was the first meal I learned how to cook myself. It was also during the cooking of this meal that I discovered I wanted to be a vegetarian. One step of it is tearing apart a whole grilled chicken. After about ten minutes of intense staring and attempts of touching it, I left the chicken lying on the cutting board, untouched and with my cheeks soaked with tears because I couldn't bare to rip the chicken wings off the body. I'm grateful for everything my mom has done for me during these years, and even if the chicken curry pasta seems like a small part of it, it's something that's going to stick with me forever, even if I have to create a vegetarian version myself.