1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Walk2Write's Lasagna Theory of Social Penetration or How to Break the Ice

By now, most people are aware of the Onion Theory of Communication or Social Penetration Theory. As someone who enjoys preparing and eating good food, I have to wonder why the theory, originated by social psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor in the early 1970s, relies on the lowly onion to reveal such a complex idea. Maybe because it's now such a universal root, cultivated and eaten throughout most of the world? Given the current globalization and resulting complexity of everything, including cuisine, perhaps the time has come for consuming a new, more elaborate metaphor: Walk2Write's Lasagna Theory of Social Penetration.

I've been preparing this dish for more than 30 years so I know a thing or two about how it can spark a conversation and cement relationships. We (SAM and I) were newly wed, and it was the first dish I prepared for "important company," namely SAM's first boss and his wife. It made a favorable impression on them, and I was even asked for the recipe. I was overjoyed that it turned out so well, but why should I have been surprised? The recipe has only failed me one time, and that was when I prepared it in someone else's kitchen using her not-so-fresh ingredients. Yes, the quality of the ingredients make a big difference, so don't even think about using ancient pasta or cheese that's a little green around the edges. Conversation will fall flat on its face in a hurry.

The recipe (discourse) begins (I hope!):

1 pound of lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken
1 medium size onion, chopped finely
1 green pepper, chopped finely

Combine the above ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. This step is important, and I'm guessing it's because the other ingredients' unique flavors would be lost in excess vapor when they are added later on. Have you ever noticed how the same kind of thing happens when someone or a select few dominate the conversation?

Add to saucepan:
28-32 ounces crushed tomatoes
12 ounces tomato paste
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
A few bay leaves
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. dried chipotle or other red pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup honey (more or less depending on how acidic the tomatoes are)

Simmer for at least one hour over low heat with the lid slightly ajar. Remove bay leaves if you can find them. If they're as old as the hills, they can crumble and get lost in the sauce. It's sort of like what happens to an elderly statesman these days in a room full of freshman lawmakers.

Prepare a 13 x 9-inch glass pan by coating it liberally inside with olive oil. Ladle enough of the sauce in the pan to cover the bottom of it. Arrange dry lasagna noodles (I use whole wheat pasta) over the sauce to cover it. Reserve the rest of the meat/tomato sauce for the final layer.

32 oz. small curd cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Spread just enough of the above ingredients to cover the noodles. Cover with grated mozzarella. Repeat with another two layers (noodles and then cottage cheese mixture) but without sauce and without mozzarella. The final layer will consist of noodles, cottage cheese mixture, and the remaining meat/tomato sauce. I haven't mentioned the exact quantity of noodles required for the recipe because it varies. The brand you buy, the size and thickness of the noodle, the number of layers you decide upon: all of these factors determine how much you will use. It's much safer to speak in generalities at first anyway. People think you're weird if you get too specific or seem to know everything about a subject. There's no room for discussion. They think you think you're an expert, and the relationship is over before it begins.

Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil (necessary to cook the dry noodles). Bake in 375-degree (Fahrenheit) oven for at least one hour, maybe 1 1/4 hours, depending on the number of layers. Uncover pan (carefully! the trapped steam is very hot) and add enough grated mozzarella cheese to cover sauce. Return pan to oven and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for another 15 minutes or until cheese browns.

This is a dish suitable for guests, best served with a mixed green salad, some French or Italian bread drizzled with olive oil, and a bottle of dry red wine. Of note, it also works fairly well with the Chronobiotic nutrition plan that SAM and I are trying. It's a "shrub" dish (please see my earlier post). The eggs and the onion are the only exceptions to the rule of "shrub" since they're both considered "roots."
Peanut, the Skate-on-the-Stairs Cat
I must say that since I started on the Chronobiotic plan I've gotten a little lighter on my feet, to the tune of about four pounds, which is a very good thing. Peanut certainly keeps me on my toes, and I've gotten more adept at sidestepping things in my path. That includes conforming to the Onion Theory. I'd rather talk about lasagna.

The laminae have more stamina
The lamellae aren't as smelly
These layers are oh-so nice
When you're trying to break the ice


  1. LOL! That's a great metaphor for making new friends. And you made a little rhyme there at the end. I love lasagna, but I've never tried to make one... maybe I should. This looks like a great recipe. Thanks, girl~ <3

  2. Mmm now I want lasagna! And I hadn't heard of the onion theory so I'm going to click on your link and read about it.

  3. How funny! I should show this to his son as his English class is working on extended metaphors. In this we have advice and get to eat it too.

  4. yum, now to make one! I haven't tried honey, but have used dark chocolate instead, that works a treat for the hint of sweetness and to encourage conversation. Now to backtrack for the onion theory...

  5. You are oh, so clever!! And that lasagne almost makes me wish I liked to cook.

  6. Just curious, are you having trouble opening your Post Editor in your Blogger blog, because I am and others (at least on the Help Forum Page) seem to as well, but I am unsure how prevalent it is across the board?

  7. Oh this post makes me feel hungry.
    I love lasagna too, but I've never tried to make one, either. The first dish I prepared for important company when we were a newly-wed was Nabe, the easiest and simplest meal to cook. I so enjoyed reading your witty remarks!
    Thank you W2W!

  8. LTM, I know you will like this recipe. It's got to be easy, or I wouldn't keep making it.

    Karen, you'll probably never look at an onion in the same way again. The character Shrek in the movie of the same name compares women to onions. Lots of layers to peel away. Fairy tale indeed! I think the male psyche just enjoys undressing things:)

    Sarah, I hope your son enjoys the read. I've heard that advice is best taken with a grain of salt. If you'll notice, I didn't add any to this recipe because several of the ingredients already have plenty of the stuff.

    Sue, I love the idea of dark chocolate! I guess the recipe with chocolate (to go along with the Chronobiotic regimen) would be perfect for the full moon day. That's the day of the month when tree, shrub, and root things can be all mixed up throughout the day. I'll definitely keep it in mind.

    Karen, I've pictured you as quite an accomplished chef, at least in your own kitchen. Maybe it's the cleaning up that you don't care for. Which is probably why I don't like anyone helping me in the kitchen until I'm done preparing the meal and it's been consumed. That's when help is most appreciated.

    Mr. S, no, I had no trouble with the post editor while preparing this post. In fact, I used it a lot because I had to sign in and out several times while working on it. I hope your problem with Blogger is short-lived.

  9. I like this post. Made my day. A happy feel good blog that inspires me to do something nice to somebody today. Oh, and to make some lasagna too!

  10. Thanks, Sapphire. I would love to know how to fix Nabe. I hope you'll share your recipe with me.

    Thank you, Mr. Tremp. I'm glad to make someone's day and be inspiring. It's why I continue to compose on this blog and what I aim for in life. Hope you enjoy the lasagna!

  11. Nay, nay, not so!! I don't care to cook. Cleaning up is the only thing I'm good at. Everyone loves to have me for holiday meals, but don't ask me to contribute to the meal itself!!

  12. Thanks so much for the recipe! I haven't made it in a long time and this looks wonderful. :) Like the comparison, too, and am suddenly so hungry for Italian food...

    Happy weekend!

  13. Hi

    I once wrote a post about Nabe.

    There are in fact many types of Nabe. The one I made was called "yose-nabe chiri type". I think the youtube videos below are quite good.

    About yose-nabe

    About sukiyaki

  14. I don't like people.

    Can I just eat the lasagne and ignore everyone?

  15. Okay, Karen (KaHolly), if ever you visit us in Tallahassee, I'll save the dirty dishes just for you:)

    Karen (Lange), the recipe has become a family favorite, and now my daughter can't claim that she doesn't have it so she can't make it herself. It's now online for her to find whenever she likes. Hope you enjoy it!

    Thanks, Sapphire. I'll check out your links and bookmark the recipe. I love to try new ones.

    IG, you might have some people fooled, but I know better. You just have a strange way of showing people that you love them. You're a terrific gardener so you can't be as bad as you say. The plants would either go on strike or find a way to poison you.

  16. W2W, Your analogies between cooking and social interactions made me laugh. I especially liked the comment about speaking in reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of Twain: "Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

    As for the lasagna, my recipe is just a little different, but it's one of my favorites for dinner company, too--easy to make ahead of time and no last minute prepwork!

  17. I haven't made lasagna in years... seems kinda silly when you're just cooking for yorself.

  18. I now have this urge to run out and replace all of my spices because I know mine are ancient and bay leaves crumble all the time:( Your lasagna looks delish and what a cute post to start conversation or maintain it. I'm wishing you and SAM and everyone a very Happy Holiday season!

  19. Rose, that's one of my Twain faves too. I'll have to remember to use that line the next time someone who talks a lot teases me about being too quiet. I'd love to see what your recipe is like. Maybe you could post it sometime, or is it a family secret?

    Claude, now you've got a good excuse to invite someone over for dinner or take a portion of it to an elderly neighbor. Individual servings tightly wrapped in foil or plastic are easy to preserve in the freezer for future meals.

    Tina, moving a lot has forced me to keep fresh spices and discard the old ones. Once I start packing up the kitchen stuff, things that hid for a couple of years (or more!) in the back of the cupboard are suddenly revealed.

    Same good wishes to you and your family!

  20. Hilarious and tasty, I'm sure, as well. :)

  21. Dear W2W,

    Cookery is not my favourite subject. But your tricky title and smart intro made me go through the entire post till I finally undesrtand that it was actually a detailed narration of a dish..Your idea is nice. If you have the idea of a variety dish, which could be liked by a majority of people, then you have the perfect tool to break the ice..

  22. Lasagna is our family tradition for Christmas Eve supper (on the theory that maybe all us southern Heinz 57 folk were or at least wanted to be Italian in a past life). Your cleverly annotated recipe has gotten my enthusiasm up and helped get back my Christmas spirit. Thanks . . .