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Life’s Lessons N° 5: Spaghetti Carbonara Both Causes Anxiety and Cures Anxiety.

Okay, let’s all take a deeeeeep breath. The last three days in Paris have been a wee bit crazy. I am still having a hard time processing it all… Did all of that just really happen? Did a gaggle of retarded people just storm Paris in the name of Islam, take hostages and kill more than a dozen innocent people? Unfortunately, yes. However, I have to say… I am proud. I am proud that I live amongst these Parisians… These brave Parisians who rallied without fear or intimidation in the Republic Square defending their right to free speech chanting, “Je suis Charlie.” Viva LaFrance.
Enter comfort food. Today, I think all of France needs a big helping of comfort food. Today is not a day for poached salmon or goat cheese salad. No, today France needs a big serving of spaghetti carbonara and copious amounts of wine. Spaghetti carbonara is a short-term solution until we find a long-term solution to all of this unrest. Yes Parisians, make a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara, shed some tears, regain your strength, go forward and, as my friend Diandra always says, (via Wilferd Peterson), “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it."
Even though spaghetti carbonara only has a few simple ingredients… It ain’t all that easy to make. You need to practice. Timing, execution and ingredients are everything with spaghetti carbonara. You can’t just throw everything in a pan like an asshole. You have to finesse spaghetti carbonara. There is a wonderful blog called Rachel Eats in which the author describes her six-year spaghetti carbonara anxiety. After finally overcoming her fears, she has perfected the recipe. Read the article HERE.

Okay, let’s start with some secrets from the experts for spaghetti carbonara…

Use whole eggs and then add one egg yolk.
Use the Japanese onsen egg method… Learn HERE.
Guanciale or pancetta is best… Thickly cut with plenty of fat… Fry until crispy but not crunchy.
Use a mixture of Parmesan and pecorino.
While heating the oil, add garlic cloves, infuse the oil and then discard the garlic before you add the pancetta.
Spaghetti noodles are good but short rigatoni noodles are better to capture the sauce.
Top with a dash of nutmeg.

Like I said, ingredients are key and if you want the very best, the very best, the very best ingredients for spaghetti carbonara you need to head to Italy and find Paolo Parisi. Signor Parisi is a Tuscan farmer/shepherd/gourmet/gastro-snob who specializes in raising Livornese hens and the near extinct black Cinta Senese pigs. Eggs and pork… Two of the most important ingredients for spaghetti carbonara. Signor Parisi’s eggs are lauded to be the best eggs on earth having “a fresh taste, a yoke that is softer and richer in fat than most, with an uncommonly long protein structure and a mild almond flavor. They also have the capacity to incorporate three times the amount of air than the average yoke when whipped.” At $4 a pop per egg, these “well worth it” high maintenance precious hens are all-natural, free-roaming and are fed goats milk. Signor Parisi’s pedigreed pigs are fed pinenuts and chestnuts and are allowed three blissful years of free roaming before being “reincarnated” into guanciale.fed Wow! :-)


Okay, now for some recipes…

Spaghetti Carbonara by Damn Delicious Blog. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti Carbonara by Paolo Parisi. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti Carbonara by Mario Batali. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti carbonara… Mastered!

*Something you don’t know about me? My daughter was homeschooled for three out of the four years of high school. It was the best decision we’ve ever made and surprisingly, it was all Gracie’s idea. I chose to be the type of parent who actually listened to their child. I believed that I raised Gracie with enough intelligence that by the time she was entering high school, she was able to make her own decisions… Sort of. When Gracie was about to start the ninth grade, we decided to move to Paris. I, of course, started researching schools for Gracie. Gracie had a mini meltdown. Gracie is so incredibly shy that it actually hampers her life. She has always been like that and it is just her nature and I cannot change it. So… I needed to listen to Gracie. She did not want to start a school in France as a freshman, not knowing the culture and not knowing the language. She suggested homeschooling. Brilliant idea, I thought. I had already lost faith in  brick-and-mortar schools anyway. Homeschooling is the wave of the future. I continued my research and found the best homeschooling program for Gracie.… Gracie learned how to take charge of her own education, make her own schedule, have a one-on-one relationship with her teachers and feel proactive towards her future. Gracie was free to travel and explore the world as well which is an instrumental part of one’s education. Yep, Gracie woke up at about noon, had a cup of tea and toast, started her French lessons, had a home-cooked lunch, read her English literature in the sunshine, had one-on-one tutoring for math, did a little yoga and swimming in the afternoon for PE, went to a museum for art history, and escaped every inch of high school peer pressure that destroys self-esteem from bullies, stoners and slackers. Gracie actually came out of high school unscathed. No, don’t get the wrong idea, homeschooling is not just for the wealthy with a stay-at-home parent. There are completely tuition free public homeschooling programs that provide everything one would need including a computer, books and supplies. We actually received in the mail, delivered to our house, art supplies including clay, paint, canvases and everything one would need for art class. The good news is that I was not the teacher. The program has a designated teacher for each class that Gracie could communicate with daily via text, email and Skype. I went to work part-time while Gracie was at home… Homeschooling. Yes, homeschooling is mostly successful if you have a responsible child, willing to work independently… Which Gracie was. As Gracie organized her own schedule, she was free by 4 PM when her friends got out of school to “hang out.” Gracie did not miss out on socializing. After a couple hours of going to the mall, getting afterschool burritos and smoothies, Gracie returned home and continued working on her studies until she went to bed. Selfishly, I was so happy Gracie chose to continue homeschooling in the 11th and 12th grade because I got to see her sassy little smile all day as I was in the beginning throes of ALS. (She went to “regular school” in New York for the 10th grade.) By the time Gracie finished 12th grade, she was ready for college… Confident, responsible, motivated and proactive. Best decision ever made over here at the O’Connell household. I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding homeschooling. Dare I ask what your thoughts are on homeschooling?


  1. I have nothing nice to say about the public school system in NJ. In fact, while my property tax dollars continue to rise each year and the biggest chunk of it goes to the schools, the schools look like they are falling into disrepair and the education is so subpar that we spend an additional 3k a year having our daughter tutored to catch her up to where her elementary school had dropped the ball. (A long unbelievable story) So yes, I think homeschooling is actually more practical and beneficial to these kids in most cases. Bravo to you for doing that for Gracie!
    I have actually never had spaghetti carbonara. The egg thing freaks me out a bit.

    1. HI.....
      My Husband is 100% ITALIAN.......he makes this dish.Just so you know when you mix the eggs with the hot SPAGHETTI or LINGUINE(NEVER RIGATONI!!)the eggs cook!You should NEVER STRAIN the pasta one should lift the SPAGHETTI out of the boiling water with tongs immediately into the bowl with the egg mixture.Also, a touch of milk can be added........but not before you mix pasta with eggs as that would cool it off.
      SERVE IMMEDIATELY..........thats my two cents!XOXOXO

    2. La Contessa, you have sold me. Always trust a true Italian cook - they will never steer you wrong. Although it is a bit daunting of a recipe. I could imagine a mess resembling scrambled eggs if not executed properly.
      Thank you! xo

  2. I don't know how it is possible for me to love you more but with each post I do! I loved hearing about Grace's home schooling. It sounds heavenly! I had 3 sons and none were interested in home schooling but they did go to a Montessori high school which was fabulous. Only 100 students in the whole school. They are all old now and look back on it with much affection.

    ps - I'm never tempted to stray from my vegan diet but this Carbonara business is soooo tempting. x

  3. Both my daughters are homeschooling! This is their third year and they are wonderful, kind, funny & successful! As a senior & sophomore, I can guarantee they haven't missed out socially. Homeschooling has given them the freedom to participate in competitive cheer and work at their own pace since the struggle with dysgraphia & dyslexia can make learning challenging. They are confident & looking forward to attending college---unlike a few years ago when the private school they were attending made them feel stressed & stupid. I'm not a teacher, just a mom who feels blessed to have found The Homeschool Academy in our town.

  4. You listened to your child, yes!!! Whatever works is the way to go. We moved our daughter to boarding school for her final year of high school and it was the best decision ever. It was a massive turning point for her as she blossomed once she was away from the bullies. It was enough time for her to gain independence of thought and confidence in her abilities to succeed . She is now in NYC doing her MFA at Columbia. She listened to herself, then we listened to her. Looking forward to making the Carbonara!xo

  5. I think you're a fabulous mom. You listened to your daughter and did what was right for her. By doing that, you instilled confidence in your daughter's decision making abilities. My kids went to public schools and although they were great schools, I still took them for personal tutoring lessons whenever they got a C. That's what bridged the gap. My son now has his doctorate and my daughter, her master's degree. I think you are the bravest person I've ever met. I've only been reading your blog for about a month and you inspire me every day. Also, I need to try the carbonara. Yum!

  6. I love a spaghetti carbonera for the ultimate in comfort...
    Parisian's must be reeling in the wake of recent events amnd looking for something to soothe their soul.
    Homeschooling sounds like it would be great for an independent and motivated student but for those who need more direction and prompting it might not be as successful...your daughter sounds like she thrived on thie option...which just confirms my belief that we all have different learning styles.
    I worked in the school system for the past 25 years so I might be a wee bit biased.
    Think I am going to make pasta this weekend now as my mouth is watering...

  7. I hate carbonara (yes, even really good, properly made). So for the first and only time, I don't have a bunch of anecdotes.
    Luckily I have a strong opinion on homeschooling. I SO wish I had been homeschooled. I was a disaster in school. How anyone is supposed to shift gears and learn new usless things every 45 minutes is beyond me. I went to a great school and my teachers were always involved and above and beyond supportive but--even in that ideal situation--I couldn't shift focus so many times in a day. I'm an obsessive learner, so when I'm on something I need to keep going rather than jump around. Which is why I spoke fluent German in one year and failed algebra like 27 times. I also had the problem of being the flamboyantly gay kid, which

  8. ...was quite a sideshow in of itself here in suburban Ohio. So I had quite a few things distracting me. I'm sure that's better now, but children are still vicious I'm sure.

    1. I am giving you the biggest cyber hug right now!

    2. We did the program as well! And for all the same reasons you did it for Grace....except our move wasn't as exciting, just from San Diego to Bend Oregon! Our son was 11 and just wasn't acclimating the way he wanted and for 2 years we had arguments and anxiety over why he hated school so much, not to mention so many missed days of school that the district sent us letters warning that we were not enforcing school attendance enough! The program was exactly what he needed to take a step back, lessen his stress, gain his confidence and self esteem so he could become what he was. I'm happy to report he is in his senior year of high school (brick and mortar) and thriving! I can't believe we made it this far! I wish we would have figured it out sooner. And I totally agree, homeschooling will be the way of the future. Too many politics involved in our public school systems.
      Thank you for sharing your life with us! You're inspiring and hilarious and use the "f" word almost as much as I do! XoxoX

    3. Another cyber hug coming from me too, Stephen.

  9. Ellie... whatever you think is the best fit for your child is the best choice. You are such a wonderful, honest, loving Mom with a wonderful daughter - home schooling was the best choice for you. It may not be the best for everybody but who cares. Gracie seems like a beautiful, thoughtful, young lady. As my Dad would say,... you done good. xxx

  10. I think that home schooling, public school, private school, etc. all have their roles to play in education. Two of myy children (out-going, popular, atheletes) were best in a traditional high school scene, The third--hard to tell, but traditional high school did not work for him. I am cautiously anti-home school except in the cases of parents like you, Ellie--who ensured that Gracie was not isolated in a separate bubble and was exposed to many different types of learning and stimulation. I have seen so many instances of abuse of this method, but the same can be said traditional schooling.
    The Carbonara looks great!! Yes, Paris needs a lot of comfort food--but 700,000 demonstrating?? They are amazing people.

  11. I wish I had homeschooled my daughter but she wanted to be with her friends.
    Small French mountain village
    I know she would have been happier0

  12. Eleanor, I have no particular opinion of home schooling but I'm hoping you'll write something about the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the other terrorist acts in Paris this week.

  13. I have five adult children. They all went to 'traditional' schools, and the experiences were not uniform but then I wouldn't have expected them to be. However, most of their time in school has served them well, and for the three who had learning issues the support in both the public and private systems was far superior to anything we could have achieved at home, and my husband was a teacher! But it sounds like what you did for Gracie was exactly right, and you encouraged her to explore rather than reject ideas, which, in my opinion, is the key to good home-schooling.
    I hope it's as sunny in Paris today as it is here in the southwest countryside!

  14. I know nothing about home schooling and feel ill-equipped to comment but when I found you'd posted via FB I felt very happy indeed. The Mr is Italian- never drain the pasta- place it from the boiling water with tongs into the sauce.

    That is all.

    Glad you are safe. Still sad about the whole Paris debacle. x

  15. Your blog is my comfort food. It feels so good to be back here after having been crying in front of the television non-stop for days. I too am proud and can't wait to see the turnout at today's solidarity rallies. My heart goes out to the family, friends and loved ones of the victims...See? Still reeling with sadness. Must. Focus. On. Carbonara.

    We moved around so much when I was young. I was always the new kid at school - horrible when you are shy like I am plus, like Stephen, I was often treated pretty terribly for being "different" (let's just say that being a Goth while we were living on the edge of Amish country didn't go over so well). I have never wondered what it would have been like to have been home-schooled...until now. Wow. The mind reels. How amazing that it is a viable option today and that you and Gracie were able to make such a great decision...together.

    Sending Gros Bisous to you and a warm hug. Thanks for keeping going here even in the midst of this hard time...the millionth example of your gorgeous strength.

  16. As a former K-6 Special Ed. teacher, I have seen the public (govt.) school system erode and I am for homeschooling, there are fantastic programs available and yes the peer pressure can be intense & bruising of one's self esteem, getting lost in the system! I love Italy! I love all these recipes you share! And now have heard of Signor Parisi’s eggs! I am especially fond of Diandra's saying, Touche'! The news in the US of Paris is rampant here, I am with you, processing all this terror has really been horrifying! Our world is awakening! Xo

  17. Of my five grandchildren, two were home schooled and three went to public school. They have all been successful. I think it depends on the child and the circumstances. As a child I hated "going" to school, but I loved learning...home schooling for me would have been perfect. The funny thing is that after disliking school as I child I became an elementary teacher!

    Incidentally I am a fellow Southern Californian and it's so much fun to hear you write about living here. I also must tell you how much I enjoy your blog and how great I think you are.

    Take care.

  18. Home schooling? Sounds like it was perfect solution. Not sure the home school method in Canada is as good as yours sounds. Not for everyone though. As you said, the child needs to be self motivated also. Best thing for Gracie for sure. She is lucky to have such wise parents.

  19. It is raining and dreary here in the desert today and I am drooling over your recipes! Just wondering how gluten free pasta would be la carbonara... Sigh. Pasta pizza and bread are what i miss being gluten free. But i feel too good to deviate. Brava on the K-12! I did the same program a few years ago for 2nd and 5th grades for my boys, and it was the best thing we have ever done ( even though it was challenging for me at the time). We have such a small pocket of time with our children, i am happy they had our influences instead of peers at a crucial time. Thinking of you and of Paris today ❤️

  20. I think homeschooling may have saved my son's life. He's on the autism spectrum and spent his school years up until high school in sweet, small private schools that he thrived in. Then, like idiots, my ex and I let him talk us into putting him in a public high school. He came home one day from 9th grade and went to bed. For three days. I still don't know what happened. He said he would kill himself if I made him go back. Luckily there was a home school center nearby where students picked classes to go to a couple of times a week but also combined with work done outside of the center for credit. It was incredibly complicated and depended on major parent involvement, but he never would've done the online program and said so, so I was happy to find this. And he made friends there with the other kids who didn't fit into the regular high school.

    Good for you for listening to Gracie. I have a special place in my heart for her- I'm extremely shy myself, and to "cure" me of it my mom put me in every kind of performance class known to man. A teacher finally stepped in and made her stop, but until then it was a nightmare. Gracie is very, very lucky to have you, Ellie.

  21. Love you and everything you share! Of course I had to have carbonara this weekend after reading about it...I have an only child as well and started listening to her from day one! Kristin is now 24 and is a great listener herself..please keep writing writing..,I look forward to it sooo much. Hope you and everyone in Paris have a wonderful day!! xo xo

  22. My daughter attends a local public high school but I find she often learns more at home. It is a balance and I think homecooking, meals together and good communication are so important.

  23. Oh, carbonara - one of my all-time favorite foods. Heaven on a plate. We've homeschooled our two children since kindergarten, and it's been worth every minute. They can progress at their own rates and study things that give them enjoyment. We've even had "jammie school" which is great fun. Keep up the great work, Ellie - I always look forward to your wit and insight.