Sunday, May 26, 2013

Doing What I Say I Will, or The Best-Ever Pasta Salad

I like to think of myself as a very flexible person, at least when it comes to my schedule. If plans change at the last minute, I just roll with it, whatever "it" is — and especially if something gets canceled. Unexpected free time is always appreciated.

Flexibility is a great trait for the professional world, but as I'm learning, it's not so great when it comes to family time.

Looking back, my family was always making and breaking plans, and no one ever got too upset when it happened. However, as my husband has pointed out on more than one occasion, not all families operate like that, and when he makes plans with me or my family, it's frustrating when things get changed or canceled as we're just about to leave the house.

Growing up with such an elastic sense of commitment has turned me into an adult who doesn't always follow through with things I say I will do. That's not the kind of person I want to be, and I certainly don't want to raise my kids to be that way.

When I decided to do this project, I wanted to also make more of an effort follow through on what I say I will do (I have subtitled it "Belated Lessons in Life and Economy," after all). It might mean committing to fewer things, and doing some things I'm just too tired to do, but I'm going to try to do them nonetheless. Not following through with the things I tell myself I will do — diets, marathon training, writing that novel, keeping my desk organized — is one thing, but when I tell someone else I will do something, I should do it. And if I can get in the habit of keeping my promises to others, maybe I can start keeping the promises I tell myself. 

My first experience with this new way of thinking came when I told my mother-in-law I'd make pasta salad for a cookout she was planning. Her brother and three of his six kids were passing through town on a road trip, and she wanted everyone to help with the menu. I was happy to do it; I love introducing my cheesy, balsamic pasta salad to new people. But a few days before the cookout, I learned that I was going to have family in town that night, too. My first thought was to cancel — Kyle could hang with his family and I could hang with mine — but, at Kyle's suggestion, we found a way to make both work, and I realized I'd still have plenty of time to make food during the day.

Though we ended up arriving a bit late to Kyle's parents' because it was the first day of his summer job at Boulevard Brewing Company, we were able to see both families and I don't feel like I let anyone down. Pasta salad may be a small commitment to keep, but it's a step in the right direction for me.

Here's the recipe.


1 pound of elbow macaroni, cooked to al dente and cooled (I use Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta)

1 red onion, finely chopped
1/4-ish pound of smoked gouda, finely chopped

1/4-ish pound of sharp cheddar, finely chopped*
A few spoonfuls of mayonnaise
Balsamic Vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly-ground pepper

Cayenne pepper


Mix everything together, use the balsamic vinegar and spices to taste (I encourage you to use lots of spices, the cayenne really enhances the flavor of the cheddar). Eat immediately or refrigerate. The next day, if it’s dry, just add some more balsamic vinegar and stir. Enjoy!

*Ingredients I picked up on my trip to Aldi

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