On Thursday, a girlfriend asked if I could help them make pasta salad for a fall festival/fundraiser at her stepdaughter's school. Knowing that she returns favors with cash and/or really, really good wine, I agreed. They had already bought all of the ingredients; they just needed me to follow a recipe.
Which was something like this:
14 oz rotini
2 finely chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped olives
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Italian-style dressing
I needed to multiply the recipe by 10.
And my girlfriend's husband had done all of the math/shopping.
Note: pasta typically comes in 1 pound (16 oz) packages... including the pasta he brought me.
I also think he bought 200 ounces of salad dressing (some of which was accidentally fat free), and I know there were only 18 cucumbers (the only thing I chopped by hand).
The Italian-style dressing's first two ingredients were soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.
I don't care for raw onion in most of my salads, so I pulverized half of a (red) onion for every pound of pasta I made. Olives are pretty much the only food I cannot eat (because they are vile), so I left them whole, because I know a lot of other like-minded (correct) people who also cannot eat them. I also left the cherry tomatoes whole, because people are weird about raw tomatoes, I worried that the juice would interfere with the taste of dehydrated red bell peppers, and I had absolutely no desire to cut up tiny tomatoes into fourths.
Basically: it was the opposite of the kind of pasta salad I would ever consider making for myself, for people I love, for people I don't love, for strangers. I wouldn't give an enemy high fructose corn syrup... or anything else Monsanto.
So once I could get over that (which, clearly, I'm not), I had to figure out how in the world to boil 10 pounds of pasta in my non-commercial grade kitchen with an urban amount of counterspace. And then how to mix 10 pounds of pasta with soybean oil, pulverized onions, and cucumbers. (Tomatoes and olives stayed on top so people can pick/choose.)
I recycled pasta water and heavily relied on this NYTimes article, in hopes it was true.
I couldn't help myself: I added dried organic basil and oregano to the mix. I added Tony's, as you do.
I ended up using half of my house to accomplish the end result, which was 3 giant aluminum trays.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean my kitchen. While I do so, I will pray for a world where children do not have to choose between hunger and genetically modified foods.