Midnight Bucatini with Bacon and Eggs

Syndicated

It was the very late nights—years ago—that I remember as being the most delicious; they almost always involved carbs, salt, grease, spice, egg, cheese, and a violent snowstorm of coarse black pepper ground in an ancient, light wood Peugot mill that I'd bought with my Dean & Deluca discount eight years earlier.

I lived alone with my cats (what else) in a small studio apartment on East 57th Street next door to one of the best high-end French Vietnamese restaurants in the city. I was single, and an editor, and a writer, and I went out four nights a week, not including weekends. My refrigerator, packed with a combination of high food (foie gras mousse, black caviar) and low trash (sliced white bread that my mother would leave for me during her unannounced visits while I was at work), always contained some sort of pungent sheep's milk cheese—usually Roncal or Pecorino Stagionato—and eggs and a chunk of slab bacon. Boxes of DeCecco bucatini stood in the cabinet, lined up like dominoes. I'd come home famished in the wee hours—at three in the morning—after a night at Au Bar, place a too-small aluminum soup pot of water on my 24-inch apartment stove before I even took my coat off, and set about cooking myself a late supper.

Midnight Dinners

It was a long time ago, in the '90s; my stamina was better. Today, if I eat after ten pm, I have dreams about wind-up, cymbal-playing monkeys, and the IRS, and Heinrich Himmler showing up at my house. The next day, my ankles leach out over the sides of my shoes like small, overstuffed duffel bags. My fingers plump up like cervelas, and my narrow gold wedding ring cuts off the blood flow to my left hand.

Still, the notion of coming home starving after a night out and craving something elemental is unquestionably romantic; I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way—much has been written about this deeply personal of non-meal meals. It's been fetishized the way good bread and a hunk of cheese has, and it usually involves things like Alia e Olio, or hay and straw, or Cacio e Pepe, or simple fried egg sandwiches. Way back when, if there was nothing of substance in my refrigerator, I'd sometimes make just that—I'd fry a single egg in a cast iron pan, plunk it between two pieces of the aforementioned disgusting white bread along with a slice of whatever cheese I had laying around (it acts like glue), and press it down with another cast iron pan until the bread turned golden and tight, and smooth as skating ice fresh from the Zamboni.

Part of why I don't eat late like that anymore is the fact that I'm asleep long before the midnight dining hour rolls around; Susan and I, together for more than a decade, spend most Saturday evenings cooking elaborate meals for ourselves. Nine o'clock finds us listening to the radio on the living room love seat, surrounded by our snoring dogs. Ten o'clock, and we're usually dozing off. By eleven, the dogs have been walked one last time, and the lights are out. It's a sleepy, calm sort of life, and I love it, and waited a long time to find it. But when my schedule changes—when I have to travel for work—and I wind up coming home very late, anything can happen.

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