Cooking up revenge for sticky pasta

I like to cook. Even if I didn’t, I’d be the cook because my wife has an actual square job. She goes to work every day and on weekends, she’s in our workroom at home … working. She claims it’s only for a couple of hours every day but that’s just not true. It’s lots more than a couple.

Anyway, I like to cook, so it works out.

When I worked at the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise in the 1990s, I’d often talk about cooking with reporters and editors or anyone else who liked to cook. We’d exchange recipes or talk about how we cooked something.

One day, I was discussing pasta with Mark DeSorbo, a reporter whose work I admired, and who, being Italian, I assumed would know a great deal about cooking pasta. And he agreed that he did.

I don’t know why I told him this, but I told him that when I cook any form of pasta, I always added olive oil to the water.

He looked aghast.

“No, no! Don’t ever do that,” he said. Aghast.

“Why not?” I queried quizically.

“My grandfather said it gave you the Evil Eye. Don’t do it. You do not need the Evil Eye. The Evil Eye is …”


“Yes, evil? Very, very evil. That’s why they call it …”

“The Evil Eye?”

“Yes. Man, I hope I caught this in time.”

This was around 1995 and I immediately stopped putting olive oil into the pasta water and avoided doing it for at least a decade. In 1996, I left the Sentinel to return to The Cabinet and didn’t see DeSorbo again for … well, yeah, a decade. One day I was in Market Basket in Milford and, VOILA! There was DeSorbo.

We got to talking and I reminded him that about 10 years before, I’d loaned him a book and he laughed and said he still had it and I didn’t laugh and said I’d really like to have it back and he said he’d get right on that. But he didn’t tell me where he lived.

And then I happened to mention the olive oil and pasta thing.

I said, “Thanks to your warning, I haven’t put olive oil in my pasta water for many years.”

He said, “What warning?”

I said, “You know. You said your grandfather said it would give me the Evil Eye.”

He said, “I said that?”

I said, “Well, yeah. So I stopped doing it.”

He laughed.

I said, “Why is this funny?” I tried to sound menacing.

He said, “Yeah, now that you say it, I remember telling you that. I can’t believe you bought it.”

I said, “You mean your grandfather never said it would give someone the Evil Eye?”

He said, “Of course not. He always puts olive oil into the pasta water. Anyone who doesn’t is looking for really sticky pasta. I can’t believe you bought into that. And you were in charge in Fitchburg? Geez, how’d you manage that, what with being so gullible.”

I thought about murdering him right there in Market Basket but before I could get my hands around his throat, he’d said goodbye and split and I was left to contemplate my decade of sticky pasta.

I suppose that you, like DeSorbo, are wondering why I would buy into the Evil Eye schmugah and the answer is simply this:

Why not?

I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in New Jersey with the Trombettis and the Venturinis and the Biscaldis and the Gramaglias and the Grazianis and I’m pretty sure that the Evil Eye was mentioned more than once, so when DeSorbo mentioned it, it made a lot of sense because it’s something I could just see Rocco Trombetti hurling at us kids when we did things he thought were stupid, like running through his vegetable garden.

So, yeah, I bought right into it.

But after the Market Basket meeting with DeSorbo, I went back to putting olive oil into my pasta and now it is no longer so sticky, for which I am eternally grateful.

It’s been more than 10 years since that meeting in the supermarket and, like a good little person brought up among many Italians, I still thirst for revenge. One day it will be mine, this I promise you and DeSorbo.

And I think he knows this. I think there are nights when he can’t sleep because suddenly he remembers and thinks:

“I’ll bet Cleveland is still plotting revenge over the Evil Eye scam I pulled on him.”

Oh, he is so right. One day, revenge will be mine, one day I will track him down in his cushy lair, wherever that might be, and when I find him, I will give him …

The Evil Eye!

Because, me amici, for all DeSorbo knows, and for all you know …

I know how.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Oh, that was maniacal laughter.

Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.