My favorite birthday party ever was an American Girl birthday party. It was a sleepover during late elementary school and I followed the magazine’s planning instructions religiously. We ate sour gummy worms and slept on the floor in sleeping bags. We prank called cute boys and whispered ghost stories late at night, when we should have been asleep. I barely slept at all and couldn’t believe how exciting that was.
When I met Sean, my birthday enthusiasm both increased and decreased dramatically. Sean and I have the same birthday — he’s 4 hours older, but we were born on the same day, during the same year, several hundred miles apart. This is fun, because our birthday is a bigger deal than it might be if it was just one of us celebrating another year of life. But it also means that our birthday is full of more pressure — more people to invite and joint decisions to make, among other things.
After a few years of joint birthday planning, I became deeply stressed by the big day, which falls in March during the exact time of year that people don’t want to leave their beds, much less their houses, on a cold weeknight evening. I knew people wouldn’t want to come and I worried that no one would show up. Plus, we struggled with who to invite. I also hate being the center of attention — when I was little I would crawl under the table when the people at Red Robin sang their happy birthday song to me. All in all, it usually wasn’t a happy day for me.
So a few years ago, I made a great decision and decided to stop planning things for my birthday altogether. Now I do only the things that I like to do on my birthday: I talk to the people I love. I see a movie by myself. I get my nails done, and practice yoga, and make good food — like this carbonara, which my mom has been making for my birthday since I was tiny. Sometimes I go to a fancy dinner with Sean. Now, my birthday is something I look forward to again because it’s about self care, not high stress. That’s a win in my book.
Skinny Spaghetti Carbonara
- 4 pieces of bacon
- 1/2 onion, cut into thin strips
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6-8 oz spaghetti noodles
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus 1/4 cup more for garnishing)
- 3 eggs, whisked
- 1 t dried basil or 6 leaves fresh basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: 1.5 T heavy cream
Set some water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, fry your bacon. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel. Reduce the heat under that pan to medium-low and add the onions, stirring until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook on low heat about 1 minute more. Turn off the heat.
Add the pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
Whisk the eggs in another bowl with 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese and basil. Add the drained spaghetti noodles to the pan with the onion and garlic, turning the heat back on to low. Stir to mix, then add the egg and cheese mixture to the pan. Working fast, fold the eggs around the noodles like a sauce — if the pan is too hot or you don’t stir fast, the eggs might clump (which tastes fine but looks kind of funny). Sprinkle the remaining bacon over the top. If you want a creamier, more fatty version, stir in heavy cream. For a lighter, skinnier version, stir in 2 tablespoons of pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and top with your remaining parmesan cheese.