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You hear the term "al dente" thrown around a lot on television cooking shows. Listening to some TV chefs, the worst possible kitchen faux pas is to overcook pasta. Some people take this message very seriously and become obsessed with not overcooking their pasta, often resulting in undercooked crunchy pasta. This is al dente syndrome.

My mother is one of these people. She watches the Food Network for a few hours every day. She takes "al dente" to a whole to new level. Whenever I mention that her pasta is raw inside, she says: "It's not raw, it's al dente, and that means 'to the tooth'." My typical reply is: "Yeah Mom, to the tooth, not to the dentist." Her affliction has spread rapidly. She also thinks that rice and beans are supposed to be "to the tooth." Crunchy chili, crunchy rice pudding. Not a pretty picture.

Overcooked pasta is indeed icky. It's not so icky though, that one should be afraid to really cook their pasta all the way through. If you have a case of al dente syndrome, just try to cook your pasta a little longer next time you make some. Notice how your jaw is not exhausted after you finish eating? Nice, isn't it? Notice how everyone took seconds, instead of furtively trying to spread the food out on the plate to make it look like they ate it or pass it off to fido? That's because pasta tastes better cooked.

Don't allow al dente syndrome to come between you and your pasta!

This message was brought to you by "Concerned Citizens for Properly-cooked Pasta."

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