We interrupt our travelogue series to bring you a not-so-brief news flash.
The ad ran in the July 4 Centre Daily Times newspaper: Grand opening for Fasta & Ravioli Co. July 7 in Pleasant Gap, a small town eight miles from State College: One FREE pound of fettuccini every week for a year to the first 25 customers.
On Thursday, I’m talking to a few of the guys at work about the promotion. Then Anthony, my great uncle’s grandson, gives me a little insider history of the pasta company. His childhood friend Bob majored in Hotel and Restaurant Management at PSU and then worked at the Nittany Lion Inn. One day Bob and Anthony went into Manhattan. Bob kept saying he wanted to check out “Eeeetaly” and Anthony corrected him, saying, “Don’t you mean Little Italy?” Back and forth it went, until they arrived at the storefront Eataly. At Eataly, you can buy all edible things Italian, and, if you bring in a bottle, they’ll fill it up with authentic olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Bob used Eataly as a model for his State College shop, Fasta & Ravioli Co. This weekend, he officially opened his second store offering fresh pasta with local ingredients, as well as oils, vinegars, and other delights. “Fasta” combines the words fresh and pasta—as well as the fact that the fettuccini, for instance, reaches “al dente” stage only three minutes after it is added to boiling water.
I can’t resist.
On Friday I tell Richard my plans. He offers to drive to Pleasant Gap to check things out after his late shift at a State College bar/restaurant. He gets home from his scouting mission around 2 a.m. and reports that the place is empty. “Well, I’m awake. I might as well drive over,” I tell him.
“Lock your doors.” Sounds just like his father.
I get to Fasta at 2:26 a.m. The street is desolate. In the next 20 minutes two vehicles pass by. I stake my territory with a lawn chair next to the front door, get back in the car, and try to nap. Penn State had Paternoville; Pleasant Gap has Fastaville. That Fastaville consists not of dozens of tents but a solitary burgundy Toyota Scion makes little difference. Inside is everything I need: a reclining seat and PSU Creamery insulated bag stuffed with supplies. A few ice packs, water bottle, cantaloupe chunks, multigrain toast spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked almonds, and a bag of Kettle Corn.
It’s 3:05 a.m. The CDT delivery guy fills the vending machine near the Fasta & Ravioli Co. door with Saturday papers.
I’m surprisingly comfortable. I toe my sandals off, doze into a dream, and wake in a nightmare. I lock my keys—and my sandals—in the car. The doors swing wide for the Grand Opening but the sign says, “No Shoes, No Service”. I’m barefoot and can’t get in for my pasta. Just a nightmare. Then another. What if I have the wrong date?
From 1969 to 1996 my mother owned a gourmet cooking shop called The Country Sampler. At home she had every kitchen gadget and appliance known to woman. I see my parents, shoulder to shoulder, cranking out ribbons of spinach fettuccini, sheets of pasta, tiny cavatellis. My sister’s friend comes home for dinner. “Mrs. Fedon,’’ Jay says, “these are be best green beans I’ve ever eaten.” No wonder, the dish was spinach fettuccini with a cream sauce.
I have a similar green bean story from Fleur-de-Lys. A customer comes in, slides open the refrigerator door, and pulls out a plastic bag filled with garlic scapes. “These are the most unusual green beans I’ve ever seen,” she says.
5:40 a.m. A grumpy couple walks over to the newspaper rack for their Saturday morning fix. They seem annoyed that they have to detour around my lawn chair.
5:51 a.m. A big blue SUV pulls in next door at the M&T Bank ATM machine.
6:01 a.m. A woman arrives who is as crazy as I am…except that she got three and a half extra hours in bed. She’s from Mill Hall and a talker. “Have you ever had the stuff?” asks the pasta junkie. “Just like the pasta my Italian aunt used to make. She passed away years ago. She’d get out her wooden harp, that’s what she called it, and roll out pasta. They got her a machine but she said, ‘Naw,’ and got out her old wooden harp and rolled some out. Boy, was that good pasta, and this is just like hers.”
7:10 a.m. Woman No. 3 arrives. She startles me from a deep, drooling sleep. She’s been watching my car from her bedroom window two doors down but waited for the sun to come up before coming down.
The morning heats up as more pasta people arrive. Those who waited too long miss out on the First 25 deal but there is still a free pound of pasta for the first 100. The chatter continues as the line follows the shade pattern of the trees. Bob comes out with his dad and a friend. They coach us in their traditional opening day cheer.
They shout, “We want” and we shout, “Ravioli”.
“Thank you,” they respond in polite Penn State cheerleading fashion.
“You’re welcome,” the crowd replies. And with that, the doors open and I’m handed a soft package of fresh fettuccini wrapped in butcher paper, the first of 52 in my year of eating Fasta pasta. Laurie Lynch
Garlic Harvest: I harvested my plantings of hard-neck garlic this week. Amazing bulb size, which I attribute to the mild winter and summer heat. Even more amazing is the difference in soil structure. At Fleur-de-Lys we had shale-y soil. With a little prompting of the digging fork, the bulbs eased out of the soil. In this clay soil, I had to pry each bulb out, circling it with the prongs of the digging fork wedged into the ground with my foot. Each clove came out wearing a block of clay soil.
Pedal Pusher Power: July 5 was my Belgian Bicycling Independence Day.
It started at 4 a.m. when I was lying in bed figuring out what to wear. I decided to proclaim July 5 as business-very-casual day. After years of being my own boss at Fleur-de-Lys, it is a habit that’s hard to break. Considering the semi-retired CEO of the roofing company wears shorts May through November, it wasn’t a stretch. Finally I was going to bicycle to the office in my work clothes–freedom from a backpack stuffed with an outfit to change into—oh so very Belgique!
Then I thought a not-so-Belgian thought. I’m going to treat myself to a To-Go cup of coffee on the way in. (The To-Go concept is not European.) I love biking to work. Even in this heat, it’s refreshing. When the fellows at work question how hard it is, I tell them it actually seems like it is all down hill…both directions. But because I leave home earlier, I miss my cup of coffee. I don’t know if it’s that or the fact that I’m out-of-shape, but when I bike to work, I spend most of my lunch break napping in my co-worker Sharon’s car.
So off I went, dressed in capris (ironically, in my youth we called them pedal pushers), a short-sleeved shirt, and flats. I stopped in at Café Lemont as it opened, parked my bike on the sidewalk, walked in wearing my helmet (OK, so I’m a safety nerd. I fall off bikes, remember?), and filled up my To-Go cup with lots of milk and strong Ethiopian brew. I made it to work in plenty of time, lunch bag, purse, and travel mug stuffed inside my flower basket. I’m ready to celebrate my small but satisfying step to living my souvenir.