New Eyes on America

September 8th

Easy peasy lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna for the boys — step by step in photos.


My house guests are providing me with hours of thoughtful conversation. They’ve just returned from a quick road trip to Las Vegas. Considering one lives in Malawi (one of the world’s highest birthrates and lowest life expectancies) and the other Australia (by way of Zimbabwe) — I knew a journey to Sin City would create a cultural commotion. I tried gently forewarning them — I think Las Vegas is a ton of fun for about 48 hours and then it becomes the city of everything wrong with humanity. They were shocked by the excess and awed by the lights, architecture and the water show at the Bellagio.

Blob of ricotta
roasted vegies
squash roasting

Jim wanted to know where all the water comes for the pools, resorts and golf courses? I laughed. Um, the Colorado River? I don’t know. I do know that water rights in this area of the US are a big deal and we are not nearly as respectful of our environmental limitations as we should be. His son Matt wanted to know how much the burlesque dancers make a night? I asked calmly, “Well, how much did you pay for the show? How much did you tip her? How many girls were there? Do the division.” They blushed and I realized that you can take the man out of Africa but he’s still a man. Generous cleavage in little dresses apparently have international appeal. Who knew?

garlic squashy goodness
naked squash
squash and garlic layer

It has been fun listening to their questions about this culture, home, nation. After visiting the grocery, Jim quickly determined the source of American obesity: too many choices. He wanted to know why we needed 45 types of sliced bread? Why would it require an entire aisle? Again, I didn’t have any answers. He said you should just go and get a loaf of bread and not have to sit an analyze a thousand options. It’s sensory overload. He might be on to something.

so geometric

They have both decided that golf courses in Arizona are fabulous, the roads are even better and it is obnoxiously hot here this time of year. Indeed. I think we’ve become equally entranced with each other as dinner company. They enjoy what I’ve been cooking and I’m loving the company. I’ll be sad when they go.

last layer pre-oven
Cheesy, crunchy top
Gratuitous side shot
Final shot pre-belly

And yes, other than the roasting of the veggies, this is certainly the easy way out when making lasagna. If I’d wanted to really knock their socks off, I would have made Finny’s Fabulous Sauce.


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Arizona, Journal
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20 Responses

  1. I agree with your friend Jim regarding too many choices at the grocery store and most everywhere else in this country. Choice is wonderful of course, but it has become sensory overload and I have often wondered if this is a cause of people feeling stressed all the time. I mean even grocery shopping has become a huge deal with much to consider and yes analyze! And though I absolutely love IKEA, look how they lead us through their store with arrows on the floor, with displays packed full of items everywhere! Like I said, I have bought many a thing at IKEA but most times I leave the store feeling overwhelmed. Enjoy your luscious lasgana and your company.

  2. I’m sorry, but I forget to mention Las Vegas. It is a fun place for a little while, and lots of things to see, but quickly the opulance becomes disgusting when you stop and think about what good that money could be doing. Ah an show girls — yes boys will be boys. :-))

  3. Yummy lasagna! Mmmm… Oh, and I think you should write a post about what you learned this weekend. I was thinking of making some pots of veggies or herbs too. My grandma gave me the pots idea since I have no yard.

  4. knitingrunner September 8, 2008

    I lived in Italy for two years, not near a mega market, we had a tiny commissary and local stores. As in the cheese store, the meat market, the bread lady and so on. Sometimes a fruit and veg vendor or a cheese maker would come to our street which was great but it did limit our choices! I think that was eating local at it’s best, as long as you don’t count the commissary where we went for familiar stuff like peanut butter and cereal. When we walked into our first real grocery store after coming home, we (my kids and I) were overwhelmed with choices.

  5. I just realized I need a butternut squash. STAT.

  6. I agree about the choices. I can’t handle the cereal aisle in our local mega-mart, especially when I’m stressed out at work. I actually get heart palpitations. I send the hubby in with, “I want cheerios this week. Thanks, babe.” Your lasagna looks delish.

  7. Isn’t it such a neat opportunity to spend time with people from other cultures? It really is an eye-opener in so many ways to how spoiled and wasteful we are. I don’t know anyone from Africa, but I do know people from Britain and the Ukraine and Russia and even though they are better off in many ways than Africa is, they still have a totally different lifestyle and therefore, a different outlook on American culture. I am so privileged to know those folks from other countries because I have learned a lot from them!

  8. Humorously, I remember returning from abroad after many years, and just being to over whelmed at the grocery myself, so your guests have my deep understanding.
    Perspective is such a powrful tool, don’t you think?

  9. Off on a completely different topic. Have you ever considered opening an Etsy shop … well maybe not an etsy shop … is that too commercial ? See I really have loved some of the bags/and notebooks etc that you make. And then I thought … hrm … well … if you made them and the proceeds went to a charity of your choice would that be a bad thing ???

    What can I say … I’d love me some African Kelli bags and it would be a great way to GIVE at the same time.

  10. Yes, Las Vegas certainly is a culture shock – even just being from the Midwest. I agree with you – it’s fun for a short time, but it gets old really fast.
    Sounds like you’re really having fun cooking for your guests every night. I must agree that having an appreciative audience is much better than cooking for one. =)

  11. oh! i just made my first vegetarian lasagna a few nights ago for some new friends (one is a vegetarian). i spent hours in the hot kitchen roasting eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes with basil and garlic. i even fire roasted red bell peppers over my gas burners! i also used sauteed mushrooms and spinach. next time i think i’ll try it with the squash. looks yummy!

    i’ve never been to vegas but i can see why it would be a culture shock. did they partake in the all you can eat buffett? all that food that people leave on their plates! just terrible!

  12. I totally agree with your description of LV. This year a British grocery chain Fresh & Easy came to Hollywood. It is about 1/8 of a regular grocery store. They carry only two kinds of ketchup- store brand and Heinz in one size each. They have most everything you could need but very limited brands and sizes. Their prices are really fair and they send out a $5 off coupon each week, but take no other coupons. I have all but switched to them completely. They have a parking garage that only validates for 1hr. It’s amazing how much quicker and easier I am getting this chore done.

  13. Hey, wait a minute! You can’t post a lasagna recipe like that for an italian to see! Lasagna is rag√π (meat sauce) parmesan cheese and besciamella (milk sauce)!……..Well, I guess that one was good, too, knowing you!

  14. I often think of the ladies I worked with in Kenya and how they would react to an American supermarket. I don’t imagine it would be pretty, at least the first time. I remember having one choice of laundry detergent, and that the availablility of liquid laundry detergent exploded here while we were in Africa. I did get a little culture shock when we came home.

  15. That looks delicious! And I love the men’s observations on American living . . .

  16. I totally agree with Jim ~ too many choices.

  17. Jane, Fresh and Easy is coming to my neck of the woods in Northern CA next year. I have been excidely awaiting the opening and now I am even more so. I so need a grocery store like this one!

  18. I’d say you are all have a ball!

  19. Ouch! LV is all that’s wrong with humanity. People do live there, or at least used to.
    True story: A friend of mine, a born and raised Las Vegan, came to Tempe to visit a friend at ASU and they went to some bar. At 12:45, the bartender calls out last call, and my friend turns and says, What’s last call?

  20. I agree, it looks deliciuos and i live in Italy in Parma near Barilla, ciao ciao