Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
On Eating Pasta After Riding 100 Miles on a Bike
I spent about half my waking hours today on my bike. Lots of miles of North County roads were covered in the semi-gloom of a mostly overcast day. The idea behind the ride was to emulate the Belgian Spring Classics, which are long rides on bad roads that are notoriously difficult for the seasoned professionals who make a career out of competing these legendary races, often in the driving rain, snow, and cakey mud of the European spring. My riding ability obviously isn't on that level, but I had a great time nonetheless.
The only problem is the food.
The general rule of thumb is that, when the riding is hard, one can expect to burn about five hundred calories an hour. Counting the stops to change flat tires, my ride today was about seven hours. That's over 3,000 calories burned.
It's almost impossible to carry that much food on the bike, never mind find the time to eat and digest it all.
The upshot of this is that, by the time the ride is over, I am ravenous. It's a deep, dark hunger that's not at all like the hunger faced by those who simply don't have enough to eat. I wouldn't dream of claiming I know what it's like to stand in their shoes. The hunger that follows a long day in the saddle is more of a need that presupposes any sensation. I'm not hungry in the "my stomach is growling and I feel empty inside" way, I'm hungry on the cellular level. Parts of my body send signals to my brain that have nothing to do with my stomach, and they're impossible to ignore.
All of this is why, after finishing the ride, I fell upon Primo Pizza and Pasta in Carlsbad like it was the last restaurant left standing after the restaurant apocalypse has come. The plate of linguine with clam sauce ($10.65), as well as the several beers ($3.75), that I enjoyed at the little, pasta place in the Poinsettia Mall satisfied me on a level that few meals have been able to do.
So, what does this say?
I'll attempt objectivity and point out that Primo was actually quite a pleasant surprise. I had been expecting mediocrity, even though that would have been amazing after such a day, but my plate of pasta was good. The consistency on the red sauce was spot on, and there was plenty of clams that had been chopped up into wonderful, chewy little morsels. I could have used a little more garlic bread to sop up every drop of the sauce, but the dish was good overall.
On a more metaphorical level, I feel as though this experience reveals the depth of our relationship to food. My feelings on that plate of pasta were rooted in primal parts of my being which are neither wholly physical nor entirely mental. It was a pure need that reached into every part of who I am and triggered a lot of instincts and emotions that aren't often activated.
From that came a lot of satisfaction. Eating that plate of noodles, simply prepared and fragrantly spiced with garlic and herbs, was one of the most perfectly sublime moments I've had in a long time, and I think that it's no coincidence that such an experience is accessed through something as amazingly vital to human life as food.
Primo Pizza and Pasta
7110 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad
Open daily 11-9