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Food for the Gods

April 27, 1986

The good news, so the surveys tell us, is that there's sex after 70. The bad news, according to a study by MRCA Information Services in Stamford, Conn., is that there's no pasta after 40. By the time Americans complete their fourth decade, the study says, their interest in pasta has largely faded away. So there you are, 39 one day and lapping up the linguine with clam sauce, the fettucini alfredo, even--yuck--the packaged macaroni and cheese, and there you are the next day, a person of altogether different tastes, supposedly turning away in boredom if not disgust from one of the great gifts to palate and tummy.

We don't believe it.

To have and retain an appreciation of pasta is one of the few things that distinguishes man from the lower animals. That may seem a bold assertion, but it is easily proved. Offer your cat conchiglie con zucchini and see what happens. Treat your dog to mostaccioli with red pepper and observe his ignorant and indeed offensive response. Lay a little manicotti on your gerbil and watch the disdain that is produced. We suppose that hogs or goats wouldn't turn away from a plate of lasagna or cannelloni, but hogs and goats reputedly eat anything, so that doesn't disprove our point. Like laughter, pasta is a sign of our humanity, and we don't stop being human at 40. At least most of us don't.

By 40, in fact, most Americans are only beginning to realize that there's more to pasta than spaghetti with meatballs or canned ravioli. This awakening to a whole new world of pasta delights is no accident. It is in fact nature's way of compensating us for the onset of middle age, and strengthening us for the obligations of sex after 70. So start the water boiling, get out the olive oil and garlic, and rejoice. And, while you're up, open a can of the usual foul-smelling stuff for the cat. It's not your fault that he's too dumb to know what's good.

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