This recipe tastes like my childhood. If you grew up in and around the protestant churches of the South and the Midwest, it might taste like childhood to you, too. And if you grew up with a soul and a moral compass, something that tastes like a comforting forkful of childhood will be pretty welcome right now, after Trump signed a "religious liberty" executive order last week that will allow bigots nationwide to violate people's rights because Jaysus said so.
This is not a "religious liberty" order. This is a license to discriminate, and in particular to discriminate against transgender, queer, gay and lesbian Americans. It's a tantrum on the page, a whine translated into a writ by mean, small-minded men and women who believe other people's happiness is a drain on their own. They're angry about sex, they're angry about pleasure, they're angry at the theoretical possibility that people might be allowed to love who they love and live authentically. They call themselves Christians, but their church is built on misery and spite and that awful canned nacho sauce they serve at baseball games.
I don't go to church any more, but I know many good Christians who are appalled by this hatefulness—Christians who have come over to my home for a beer or four and a session of prolonged bitching about people who would, if Christ returned to feed the 5,000 today, demand all those hungry people get drug-tested before being doled out their loaves and fishes.
My mom, a certified church lady, made a version of this salad several times a year, whenever there was a crowd that needed feeding, and it has only three non-negotiable ingredients: bottled Italian dressing, cheddar cheese and not-stringy pasta. Church lady pasta salad is inclusion in a bowl. It's a celebration of whatever you like to eat—as long as you can pour Italian dressing on it.
pasta, not a stringy kind
cheddar cheese, preferably extra sharp, in small cubes
cherry and grape tomatoes, halved
red onion, sliced thinly
mushrooms, sliced or quartered
black olives, sliced, from a can
bottled Italian dressing (I'm partial to that classic Kraft jam)
diced salami, ham or other deli-type meat
salt and pepper
Boil the pasta, drain, rinse and chill it if you can stand not to eat immediately. When the pasta is cold, toss it with the rest of your ingredients and douse with the dressing. Serve to everyone in your neighborhood.
Resistance Kitchen is a blog about food, rage and politics at resistancekitchen.tumblr.com. Andrea Grimes is a journalist for hire, Bloody Mary expert and Texpat living in the Bay Area.