Fiction-Food Café

May 2, 2016

Pecan (or Walnut) Pesto Pasta | The Sky is Everywhere

          While making space for her dead sister's belongings in the cluttered attic, Lennie comes across a beautiful wooden box filled with unsent letters from her grandmother to her mother who's been absent for sixteen years. After reading one eye-opening letter, Lennie can't muster the self control to put the box away.

I sit down on a box, try to calm down. I can't. I pick up another note. It says:

Remember that pesto you made with walnuts instead of pine nuts? Well, I tried pecans, and you know what? Even better...

My mother makes pesto with walnuts! This is even better than sleeping with lilacs. So normal. So I think I'll whip up some pasta with pesto for dinner. My mother bangs around a kitchen. She puts walnuts and basil and olive oil in a food processor, and presses blend. She boils water for pasta! I have to tell Bails. I want to scream out the window at her: Our mother boils water for pasta!

– Chapter 29, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

          I read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson years ago in a young adult literature class in college. Whereas I didn't care much for the sex (though I understood its place) and wanted the main character Lennie to traverse her grief and discover her new self without such intense attachment to a boy, the writing was beautiful and lyrical and I could appreciate how it resonated with the passions of youth and the desperation of loss.

          There are several food mentions in the novel but, as mentioned above, nestled in amongst Gram's letters to Lennie's absentee mother Paige, is a simple recipe for pesto (printed in the book) which Lennie instantly attaches to pasta. In that moment it means the world to her because never had she thought of her mother as someone who did something so prosaic as boiling water. A deep longing fills Lennie, but as her thoughts continue, she painfully wonders how a mother who boils water for pasta could leave two little girls behind.

Gram's Pecan Pesto Pasta (or Paige's w/ Walnuts)

2 Cups Packed Fresh Basil Leaves
2/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Pecans OR Walnuts
1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
2 Large Garlic Cloves, mashed
1/2 tsp. Salt + more for the pasta water
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (optional)
12 oz. Uncooked Pasta (I used bowties)

1. Heat your oven to 350ºF & line a baking tray with foil & spray it with non-stick spray. Spread the nuts out on the tray & bake for 5 minutes.
2. Combine the toasted nuts and all of the ingredients except for the pasta in a blender or food processor & blend until smooth. Sit aside until the pasta is cooked.
3. Bring about 3 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil & then add in the pasta. Stirring occasionally, bring back to a boil & let cook for about 14 minutes or until cooked through. Drain the pasta & run under cold water.
4. Transfer the pasta to a bowl & toss it with the pesto until completely coated. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of parmesan, a couple of pecans or walnuts, and a drizzle of lemon juice.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Miss Diana,

    Wow. This book sounds heartbreaking and awesome. I would really like to check it out. (BTW, I was that 17 year old girl that commented on your skywitch or whatever it is called stuff. Remember?).

    Have you ever heard of "Tiger Lilly" by Judy Blume? Again, another old YA novel (from 1980, to be exact), but it also deals with themes of loss and love. It was turned into an indie movie back in I believe 2012 or something along those lines...the author's son, who is a director, directed it. Unlike the Sky Is Everything, though, the heroine does learn to transverse her grief and does develop a relationship with another guy, though it is not as much of a deep attachment as the heroine in this novel. You should read it.

    I didn't know they now offered YA classes in colleges now! Wow, we sure have come a long way for us to truly gain an appreciation of that type of literature as an art form...decades ago, we would not have had that.

    I think you should go back and re-read this novel to gain more appreciation with the main character. I think she might have developed a somewhat deep attached relationship with the guy in the novel because maybe he reminds him of the person she lost, and she does help transverse her grief, but it's really subtle unless you gain a deeper appreciation.).

    Also, there is a YA novel centering around Ophelia in Shakespeare that came out in 2006 called "Ophelia" in which she is the central character and she is strong and able to stand up for herself and survives, instead of being passive. I believe it is getting a movie treatment starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. The author is Lisa M. Klein. Really good, go check it out.


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