Pasta Sunday Project

Making Home-Made Pasta

You might have made homemade pasta before but I bet that you didn’t do it for the same reasons I start doing it. In this post, I will take you thru my quest for what has become a major research project. Many of my inventions have found a solution to "impossible problems" because of the unorthodox approach in tackling the core of what made those problems excessively complex. 

I can't disclose the extent of the invention yet as its related patents are pending and some are shaping up, however, one of the “tools” that I am using to gather data (behavioral and structural) that corroborates my research involves the making of pasta with friends.
Every two weeks, we make pasta together with one family or a very small group of individuals. It’s a 1:1 group effort. Yah, I know that sounds like an oxymoron but so is life for the most.
As a professional inventor, I have developed a keen eye for details that onces taken in their naked isolation are so irrelevant that commenting about it seems an expression of geekiness mixed with irrelevance. The reality is that when those details are blended with process and harmony they all of a sudden make sense as never before.  
Apple, for example, masters this way of innovating. Before the iPod, there were plenty of MP3 players and almost every component they used to build the device was already available, and for a long time. And indeed, the curation of tiny details, insignificant in their cherry-picking selection made the success that ultimately saved a company worth today's zillions.
As generalist inventor, my focus is not just on “computer stuff” but it goes from neuroscience to lifestyle hacks passing for AI and advanced home automation. The biggest leap of innovation is always spotted by people that have the ability to transfer knowledge from one field to the other semi seamlessly. See learning transfer at work here. Go Elon!
It occurred to me a few years ago that the way we purchase and consume food has ramifications on our mental health that is proportional to physical harm just not immediately perceivable. Due to how the side effects spread and impact us a measurement isn’t just a 1:1 obvious analysis. 
With that “gut feeling” I started an effort of making more organic meals as possible and measure their effects over time. I did not believe that healthy food perse was enough, it had to be consumed under certain conditions that would have caused biometric shifts that would have impacted the mood and processing of the intaken food. 
I looked at the temperature in the home while eating, different techniques of cooking the food, different music while making and then consuming the food and it turned out that the most effective (and measurable) of all was the simplest. Consume it with people. That kicked off an experiment that has lasted over two years: Making pasta with Friends, every two weeks nicknamed Pasta Sunday Project.

Foundations

  • All ingredients have to be organic
  • While cooking harmony must reign
  • Music or chattery while making food is a necessity
  • The concept of time, besides the guard of not spoiling the food, is irrelevant and therefore it should be ignored altogether
I understand that the above makes sense and again it is not Earth shuttering in terms on knowledge however, as I will take you through all steps, you will understand that this project is way less trival that those foundations listed above.

Learn how to make pasta

Making pasta is fairly straightforward. I grew up in an Italian household where the concept of buying food was limited to what you could not make on your own. My family had a business in a large industrial area however my mom was the daughter of a farmer with a large knowledge of growing and making their own of everything. From machinery to process livestock and growing food.
Despite that when I started making homemade pasta, I knew _nothing_ on the subject. Thanks to the power of technology, a few FaceTime sessions with my mom did the trick.

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Stage one

Collect the ingredients and start working on it.

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You can find plenty of grandmas and YouTube videos on how to make past so I will skip the obvious. What is less obvious in this story instead is that the eggs used to make the dough, come straight from our own chicken.

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It doesn’t get more organic than that. However, those chicken are the equivalent of my lab rats because they are fed and subjected to behavioral stimulation to evaluate, in a measurable way, the outcome and impact of those experiments via their eggs.
The dough isn’t mixed used machinery but in the old fashion way. By hands and hard work. While this is happening chattery goes on like there’s no tomorrow and at the same time rigorous silence and respect for what is happening. While I do this, I teach our daughters the importance of traditions and the value of being able to perform those operations because someone else (my mom) has wikipedianized us through modern means. Not to be taken for granted.
Occassionally my friends or their partners hop in providing very biased suggestions on how to do what themselves they don't do because their parents still around to do that for them. The irony...

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The chattery occasionally is brought in even from remote. For example a few times, I have been phoning my siblings which live overseas, The value of the chattery is that your energy levels change, your food somehow absorbs that. It’s what I call cook-o-therapy. You just feel good about what is happening.
Once the dough is made you can go wild with how to use it.

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In the picture above we used spinaches to make the green dough. Just plain eggs for the "white" version and beet juice to make the red one.

Happiness

It pours when multiple people, of all ages, wrap into the ancient art of making your own food.

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Together it’s better

When we have families over, it’s a spiritual treat to see how parents grab their children's attention in grasping the art of making and how their children try to please the others showing mastery. We also add some fun in putting girly apron to the men, of any age.

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Chris has a pink apron with a label that says “kiss the cook”. However, Corrado won the Wonder Woman prize and he does a wonderful job with his first time making ravioli with blue cheese.

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We also observed that when siblings are part of the process they shift from rivalry from who should crank the pasta machine for making the strips (Ravioli or Fettucini) to collaboration.

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Looking at the picture below you can tell by yourself how big smiles are brought on people’s faces. That joy shows into the food and in the mental peace.

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As we keep making those unique and fully dedicated events we become more curious about the “what if” of mixing ingredients and changing the process. Fearless that if something goes wrong we don’t make an impression on our friends and/or don’t eat at all.
In the process of learning how to make homemade pasta we made plenty of rookie mistakes. Too thin, too wet, too dry. Overcooked, which in the Italian book means that there’s a special place in hell for you. However, most of the time we collectively did an awesome job, and in all cases, it has been a huge amount of fun.
Creativity also goes wild because when you start realizing that what mama religiously did was not just about the process, which important and it has to be rigorously applied (right mama!?) but it’s more about the energy and dedication that get channelized in what you are doing.
An Italian singer popular in the 80-90s had a song called “Every cockroach is a beauty to its own mama” (original) by that logic even if what you are making isn’t perfect you are going to appreciate it regardless.
Well, that is true in general terms but you don't want to stretch your creativity to the point that you hate your making because what came out was way too bad.
Therefore when experimenting, caution has to apply to avoid the taint of the research and the accumulated data.
In the experiment below, I mixed beet and another type of dough to recreate a prosciutto look of the dough. As data indicates, if what you see doesn’t taste like what you have mentally associated, your happiness is going to be affected.

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With this experiment, I learned that what looks cool doesn’t necessarily transfer the best emotions even if it tastes like heaven. For the well-oiled part of the process, joy is a major drive throughout the day.
Even the moment that we snap our traditional “I was here” picture, the chuckles and snafus are an infuse of good spirit that affects the mood and therefore the way we relate to the food we eat.

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Data acquisition

I measure multiple things and the primary goal is to hold two key principles:
  • Absolute passive data collection. I must be focused on the natural aspect of the process, not on the nerdy science bit. Not to mention that I really enjoy the company in a very deep way.
  • Privacy, including my own. Privacy is a touchy subject but fortunately, for data scientists, there’s yet no social sensibility & laws around the collection of biometrical data. 
As an example, once in awhile, there’s some noise in the media and then people go back on posting on social media their Fitbit and other biometrical data...
The entire home is made increasingly smarter by the years that go by, that is such a large subject that I will probably document it in another post at some point. For the purpose of this experiment I installed sensors that allow such passive data collection, below there is a rough drawing of the distribution of the sensors that collects samples per minute. 

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Data is collected in real-time for light and humidity. That type of data goes into the Particle cloud and then is downloaded at the end of the day in my private in-house cloud. This type of data is collected using custom hardware I built using a phetora of components, some really unique and mostly unknown. Calibration was a major bitch in the early day of the experiment setup.

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The hi-def cam is a re-purposed Nest cam. Originally I wanted to use a FLIR camera, however, I then discovered a hack that produces a very close result of what I needed with less than U$350. I am interested in thermography and skin pigmentation variations. All data is sent to my in-house mini data center made of Synology (1,2) machines that run my software analysis.
It’s a lot of effort for something that severs side looks like this:

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The one-piece of hardware that really took a lot to figure out, in terms of data acquisition and time series analysis was the pheromone detector. I am still not fully pleased because building a baseline is sort of black magic and until I ran into someone a lot smarter than me with the same understanding of what I am trying to do I will always have the doubt that I am adding bias into the collection by the way I wired and coded it.
If you haven’t played with one of those toys before, it’s a real joy to play with. Chris Goggin one of my favorite makers in the space does a good job of showing the essence of it.

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Findings

I will discuss what I found in the accrued data in future posts. The measurements were done over:
  • blood samples (Glucose and others)
  • Skin pigmentation; variations in nondaily exposes body parts (e.g. elbows)
  • Gassing (measured in intensity and frequency)
  • Visual stool analysis using the Bristol Stool scale
  • Mood analysis; the day after the meal
Almost every guest isn’t aware of this collection, only a handful of people (attending to all events) are aware of this research and therefore the data collection of the above list is done over them. Mostly because sane people don’t want to submit themselves for this type of analysis. No one wants to participate in a research project unless they are either paid or feel they have a problem that the research solves ^_^  – egg-chicken problem! The good news is that what I collect has not to any type of data that big companies call PII data or any other personal information that any form of legislation or sensitive person would even be able to wrap their head around it to determine a level of upsetness. There's a sign by the door that alerts everyone walking into the house about this project but I can guarantee you that no one has seen it link or fully read the disclosure. 

The Gist Of It

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It has been a fantastic project from a social and belly happiness point of view this far. There’s more than meets the eye in what we do on a daily basis that seems routine and irrelevant. Enough to have critical consequences on our quality of life and overall health. I want to find a way of quantifying it and provide real time coaching tips to improve the way we spend our time on Earth. There’s a formula to express love. So it is not too far-fetched as a project from the scientific point view. 
As humans, we’re accustomed to instant gratification and ignore or dismiss instant dissatisfaction. My early data shows that we might dismiss it but the rest of the body doesn’t and by the time that signs show, making a correlation is practically impossible. 
Unless you have a model and data to spot it. Such a thing so far doesn’t exist. Yet. I have been messing with this theory before (ref: DIY Happiness) however, a few months ago an experiment gone wrong led me to find a clue into something that is now the leading clue for this incredibly complex research. 
This research is part of my crown jewel of all my inventions, I am after something that is a life-changing event. For myself and a lot of other humans. Just like in any invention, chances of succeeding have a trend to null, however, in each one of those attempts something else evolves, gets created and if it is done right plenty of fun is distributed and consumed. Totally worth the shot.
In all cases, remember: The secret of pasta is the pasta.

And if after all reading this, you wonder where do I find the time to work on such a project, well then we should be talking about how I manage my time. And the difficult decisions I make every day to optimize that time. That itself is a lot of dough to deal with.

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