At the time, I lived in Minnesota. I'd gone to a party where a group of women had gathered around the chip bowl (I, of course, was one of them), and we were talking about dating. One of the women had been engaged in a complex campaign through personal ads. She'd gone on a lot of dates and was raving about the polite, successful men she'd met.
I had never been much of a dater. Oh, I'd had the occasional boyfriend, but it was always a friend who became more. I'd never gone out with people I didn't know, and I was reluctant to contact total strangers.
But, I figured, sometimes you have to try something new.
I poked around on the Internet for a while, and I found this website called Match.com. The idea of using a mathematical algorithm to find a mate appealed to my inner nerd. (I was on my high school's computer team. We programmed in BASIC. Competitively. Enough said.)
If just so happens that Match had a promotion for a free week. That, my friends, appealed to my inner cheapskate. So I filled out the questionnaire, taking pains to be completely honest about who I was, what I was looking for, and how important each factor was to me.
I hit "submit," and up popped a long list of men. The first person on the list was a 99% match, but I didn't click on his profile right away. Instead, I scanned the options ... and I didn't see much to strike my fancy. But that 99% match intrigued me.
So I clicked. I read. I was further intrigued ... so I sent him a message. I included my real e-mail address, because I'd decided that I didn't want to pay money for the service. He e-mailed back, expressing relief that I'd provided that e-mail addy. Turns out he was doing the free week, too, and didn't plan to pay. (We're both cheap ... part of that 99%.)
Well, we e-mailed a bit, talked on the phone, met for coffee, and the rest is history. We do have an amazing amount in common. But what about the 1%?
It basically boils down to 80s pop v. metal and math rock. And onions.
You read that right: onions. I love them, Mr. Wendy hates them. But because love is all about compromise, I leave them out of the food we share (the chili, soups, curries, etc.). That's why my version of pasta e fagioli is both vegetarian and onion-free. If you like onions (and the person with whom you break bread does, too), you can start with about a cup of diced onions in the saute at the beginning of the recipe.
Easy Pasta e Fagioli
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tbs. olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbs. dried basil (or 1/4 minced fresh)
10 oz. fresh baby spinach
2 c. water
1 cube vegetable bullion (optional)
1/3 c. chopped parsley
1 pound small pasta (elbows, small shells, whatever)
parmesan cheese and a little extra olive oil
Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic (and if you're lucky enough to use it, your diced onion), and saute until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add dried herbs and carrots, and saute another minute or two. Add the spinach and let steam until the spinach starts to wilt. Add the tomatoes, water, beans (no need to rinse or drain first), and bullion. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until the carrots are tender.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
At the last minute, add most of the parsley and the fresh basil (if using). In each pasta bowl, ladle in 3/4 to 1 c. pasta and top with the soup. Drizzle with olive oil, and top with grated parmesan and a little additional parsley.