The Party Lasagna Chronicles
I once took two lasagnas to a college party instead of something practical like a 6-pack.
I've made approximately four lasagnas in my life that I can recall: one for Thanksgiving, one just because, and two to take to a college party. Think: your friend's apartment full of people you work and go to school with, craft beer bottles on every available surface (because you're all millennials), vodka bottles the size of Stanley Cups, Ring Of Fire, etc, etc. Your typical party for anyone ages 21 to 25, and I brought two lasagnas instead of, say, a bag of chips.
Why lasagna, you’re asking? To that I say, why not? A little history on lasagna: thought to have originated in Naples and first appearing in a 14-century cookbook, Liber de Coquina, the name lasagna comes from the Greek word Laganon, which was a type of pasta. There was also a dish in Ancient Rome called lasanum, Latin for container or pot. Italy has been perfecting lasagna for centuries, leading to the meaty, cheesy, saucy layers we know today.
But back to the party. I'm living in Orlando at the time, studying creative writing at UCF, working at Harry Potter World, which is where I met most of the people at this party. It's a birthday bash for one of our best friends from work, complete with a Publix sheet cake bought as a surprise. An hour before the party, I make my lasagnas: cooking the pasta, sauteeing the beef, cracking open a jar of Ragu because I'm thoughtful but cheap. In my head, I’m going to be the star of the party because of these two casseroled angels. In truth, I sort of was, except no one can outshine a birthday girl.
I assemble my lasagna with loving hands, though I am messy and slapdash; I have no patience for anything, not even carefully constructing a cherished dish. Also, I'm going to be late. So I slap the ricotta on top of the sauce, or is it ricotta first and then sauce? Even with all the lasagnas I've made, I still have to look it up.
I don't have my recipe memorized, because my memory is so ravaged by depression and anxiety that I have trouble remembering what I wore last week (though it's probably pajamas because that's quarantine, baby). I have few memories from that night, which has nothing to do with how much I drank. I have fleeting impressions: crowded rooms, lo-fi on the TV, colored lights, and weed smell. My memory is a sieve letting through memories at random, vague images, ambiguous recollections. (I also remember we had a colleague who didn't drink and I didn't know what to do with him, and then a year later I didn't drink anymore and no one knew what to do with me and I'm just saying, be kind to your sober friends but also don't treat them like freaks.)
Anyway, the lasagna: a staple for Italian households and fat orange cats. Call me a Garfield, but I've always loved a good lasagna. Once my mom made an eggplant lasagna with way too much garlic and I still ate it for days afterwards; layer it in a casserole dish and I'll devour it no matter what. Which is why I've made so many lasagnas for parties; I want my friends to feel like they've never had a lasagna before mine, that nothing has been as good as eating lasagna out of a plastic cup because there are no plates. Also, I want to cultivate the reputation of "girl who brings lasagna to parties". It's just on the right side of quirky to work for me.
We did have to eat lasagna out of plastic cups. I remember there weren’t enough plates, but don’t ask me how we ate the cake. Not to be gross, but we saw that lasagna a few hours later when a girl threw up in the parking lot. In the end, lasagna is the layered gift that keeps on giving.