Celebrating fettuccine Alfredo and the Olympics

In light of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I think it is appropriate to not only celebrate our athletes and all of their hard work, but to also celebrate what they eat.

Most athletes can consume just the types of food we usually try to avoid in excess: carbs and proteins. They have such high metabolisms due of their training that they can basically eat whatever they want, but one thing is for sure – carbs and proteins are two main food groups that are necessary for sustaining long lasting energy. For the rest of us, today we have an excuse to indulge – Happy National Fettuccine Alfredo Day!

Photo courtesy of annieseats

Photo courtesy of annieseats

What is fettuccini alfredo? Fettuccine Alfredo, though it was not American originally, has now become ubiquitous in Italian-style restaurants throughout the United States, like the Spaghetti Factory, Olive Garden and Louise’s Trattoria. The dish is essentially pasta with a parmesan, cream and butter sauce, that comes with a nice warm garlic roll and a side of Ceasar salad. If you live in the dorms, you know this dish as the white, peppery goop that you can choose to ladle on your al dente or completely smooshed noodles. Yum.

In Italy and throughout Europe, the name “fettuccine Alfredo” is basically unknown – leave it to Americans to make that so. In Rome it is usually called fettuccine al burro (pasta with butter). But a close cousin to the Alfredo is in Piedmont, one of the 20 regions in Italy, called “taglierini,” which is served with butter and truffles.

Fettuccini Alfredo hasn’t been around for all that long – it became popularized by Hollywood stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford when they honeymooned in Italy 1920.

For athletes, though, fettuccini Alfredo is not the healthiest of pastas. As a student-athlete at USC, my coach makes a point of making sure that dinner for my teammates and I must consist of pasta with red sauce, like spaghetti or pasta carbonara, or a protein like chicken.

Fettuccini is one of the fattiest of the pastas, because apart from the noodles, you have a load of heavy cream, butter, and a ton of parmesan cheese. Sure, the dish may be covering two main food groups in carbs and dairy, but as a well-rounded meal, not so much.

Think of it this way: Would you really want all that cream and butter to sit at your rump to create a cottage cheese effect or worse yet, form a nice tire-like shape around your waist? I’ll answer that for you: No, you wouldn’t, because Valentine’s Day and spring break are right around the corner.

But don’t let me crush your dreams of consuming something buttery and cheesy. In the words of Julia Child, “With enough butter, anything is good.”

It is always a good day to be an American with like fettuccini Alfredo, because it is customizable, and to some extent can be made “healthier.” Americans are known for being innovative, especially in the kitchen – just look at the amount of fusion food trucks and restaurants that surround our university. Fettuccini Alfredo can become a fusion by adding chicken, broccoli, peas or a combination of the three, though the cream and cheese always remain.

Of course you can always forego the cream altogether and just get fettuccine noodles mixed with a pleasant blend of virgin olive oil and some parmesan – one of my personal favorites, perfect for college students, to fill your stomach for a long night of studying or partying.

As the National Pasta Association advises, “Avoiding or limiting carbohydrates can leave you feeling sluggish, tired and unable to concentrate. Complex carbohydrates like pasta provides the optimum type of ‘fuel’ to power your muscles and brain, as it is digested more slowly, it provides a slower release of energy to keep you going throughout the day.”

Happy pasta eating!

Alegra Hueso is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.  Her column “In Love With the Edible” runs on Wednesdays in print and Fridays online.