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February 25, 2009 at 8:40 AM

Pasta water discussion hot topic in my house

Over my morning coffee, I read with great interest today’s New York Times installment of “The Curious Cook” by Harold McGee. In that kitchen-tested testament, McGee answered the question “Why boil so much more water than pasta actually absorbs, only to pour it down the drain?” That query, and the pro’s answer, made me want to rush to my computer and send the Curious Cook a query from another curious cook — this one:

When I’m in a rush to make pasta, whether it’s for a family favorite like spaghetti Bolognese or a box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese, I often use hot tap water to speed the process. At which point my husband, Mr. Safety, grabs a ruler (just like the one the nuns used to use on him in grade school) and slaps my hand, reminding me once again that I should “Never, ever use hot tap water for anything that’s going to be ingested”:

Why? I ask, figuring I’ve been doing it for years and I’m not dead yet. Mac’s answer, and I quote (I made him stand over my shoulder and harangue — I mean explain it to me, once again): “Plumbing is put together with heavy metals. They’re in the solder, in the walls and at the joints, so when you use hot water, that causes trace amounts of the metals to come into solution, which you, me — and our son! — then ingest. When you use cold water, fewer toxins are dissolved in that water.” And no, he’s not a scientist, but he does play one on TV. Sort of. Need I mention that our house was built before the last Depression.

My question for McGee is: is Mac right? Should I be concerned?

Anyway, instead of e-mailing the food scientist, who likely had better things to do this morning, I did a Google search on the subject and found all kinds of support for Mr. Safety’s admonition, including this, this and this. At which point I turned to my husband and said, “OK, already! You win. I’ll stop using the hot water.”

Comments | More in Cooking | Topics: Reading about eating

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