The room smells delicious. My wine glass sits half empty nearby, marred with lipstick marks and flour fingerprints. Around me is the sound of laughter, quiet conversations, and the occasional joke. I focus on winding the square of homemade pasta dough through the press for the seventh time, watching as the dough creases and squiggles, emerging slightly softer than the last time through.
Setting the dough on the table, I sip my wine as we switch attachments, ready to turn the dough into actual noodles. I’m full of excited anticipation, a feeling I have never experienced in any kitchen ever.
I wipe a stray hair off my forehead with the back of my hand, leaving a trail of flour in its wake. Nearby there’s a pop of a champagne cork as another group takes a break to refill their glasses.
“Ready?” My partner asks.
“Absolutely,” I answer.
She carefully feeds the dough into our press, lining it up so it slips through evenly. I turn the handle, readying to catch the emerging noodles. Slowly they appear, a series of pasta snakes wiggling side by side.
I stretch my arm to accommodate their length, wanting them to remain continuous, even. They are soft, buttery to touch. I wonder how soft they would feel against my cheek, and catch myself wishing we didn’t have to cook them.
As the last bit of dough winds through the press, a marvelous thought, “I actually made noodles! Well, we made noodles.” I smile at my partner as I lay the spaghetti gently on the work space in front of me, careful not to fold or squish the ends.
The group of women sitting across from me erupts into laughter as one finishes her story, causing me to look up from our masterpiece. I smile at the scene around me. Women of various ages gathered around a table, sipping wine, telling stories, working together to prepare a meal. There’s something comforting about it. Historical. Soothing. I have the distinct feeling of belonging that comes when you participate in a ritual that’s been happening generation after generation the world over.
Our dough successfully noodled, we sit around the table, wine in hand, shoulder to shoulder, watching the instructor stir our pasta into a boiling pot.
“While we wait, let’s go around and each tell a little about what brought us here today,” she says.
We listen as the first few ladies share their interest in cooking or the occasion that brought them here together.
“What should we say?” my partner whispers to me as our turn nears.
“I think I’ll go with the full truth,” I whisper back, “you can build off that on your turn.”
We smile to each other as the woman before me finishes and all eyes turn to me.
Clearing my throat and taking a sip of wine to calm my nerves I say, “My name is Sara. I’m here with my friend, Mitzi. I am married to her ex-husband. Since I need to feed her children some of the time, I agreed to come with her tonight. I am, after all, hopeless in the kitchen.”
There’s an awkward beat of silence as the women process what I’ve said. Silence followed by nervous, tittering laughter.
“Wait. What?” someone asks. “Did you say you are married to her ex-husband? And you’re here together?”
“We really enjoy spending time together,” Mitzi answers. “We’ve become good friends.”
There’s another awkward pause. We smile. We’ve grown used to it. At times even exploit it.
“I think that’s great,” another woman answers, “I wish my parents had been like that. It would have made life so much easier.”
A chorus of agreement spreads around our circle, as the pasta bubbles away in the middle of the table, filling the air with its delicious aroma.
I have no way of knowing if we’ve planted a seed that will alter another’s blended family for the better one day. But as we sit tasting homemade pasta, sipping wine, and chatting, I know Mitzi and I have another shared memory that illustrates our commitment to build a beautiful, blended, bonus family. One where we are all better people, not bitter people.
A thought so lovely it puts our delicious noodles to shame.