I'm one stubborn lady.
That plate full of gnocchi horror last week couldn't get the best of me.
Of course, at the first opportunity, I tried again. Try, try again.
This time, I tried a new recipe. A basic one. One that is currently being used by a 97-year-old Italian. Passed down from generation to generation.
You see, after my gnocchi disaster last week, I ran to the local library to browse around. And I'll be danged if I didn't find the most wonderful cookbook: Cooking With Italian Grandmothers.
Now that's what I'm talking about. And didn't I just say I needed an Italian Grandmother to show up at my door?
I've spent the last three nights pouring over it's pages, reading each word and savoring each recipe. The book includes thick, textured pages, beautiful photography, and compelling stories of wonderful Italian women – each cooking specific to their region. It's beautiful.
And I'll be danged if I didn't run across a gnocchi recipe. Slathered in a ragu sauce. Yes, please.
So, I went for it. This time, using white flour instead of half wheat (I figured if I cook this once every few months or so, what's a cup ‘o white flour here and there). I also let my potatoes cool down before I processed them, as the steam helps to release extra moisture in the potatoes. I also “mashed” the potatoes with the back of a spoon through a fine, mesh strainer instead of whipping them in the food processor. This made a huge difference in the texture of the potatoes.
All that to say, I make gnocchi. And it rocked my socks off.
No, it wasn't quick. Or easy. But I did it. And next time I make it, it will be that much easier. That got me thinking – do we try to hard too make things easy?
Check out this video HERE. This is one of the Grandmother's featured in this cookbook – you can see the intense work involved in her cooking. She grows, harvests, cleans, and cooks the beans. She then makes the pasta by hand, rolling each noddle. The olive oil is made from her harvested and pressed olives. The cheese, from her cows. All to serve to the people she loves.
Do you think the instant gratification of our culture is a bad thing?
Do you think we've lost something important as we poke holes in the plastic covering of the frozen lasagna, simply to throw it in the oven for 45 minutes?
Have we lost the true appreciation of our farmers who grow that delicious food? Or the love and dedication it takes to prepare a homemade meal?
The first thing a gardener (or farmer) will tell you is that as soon as you grow that food yourself, you have a whole new appreciation for a head of lettuce or a ripe tomato.
When gnocchi is lovingly made by hand, one certainly does appreciate it more.
I do think it's wonderful how much access we have to delicious food. We don't have to worry about starving – and that is a blessing. I just wonder if there's some middle ground somewhere. A middle ground that understands the importance of the small farmer, the home garden, fresh & local produce, quality time spent in the kitchen, patience, special treats, and diligence.
I know we are rushed with busy and demanding lives. But should it be that way? Or should we take moments to breath. To focus. To do something well. To cook!
After all, a fresh tomato sauce simmered slowly on the stove all day far surpasses a can of Ragu.
I think I shall try more of these fantastic Italian recipes. Recipes that are so rich with heritage and taste, they burst at the seams. Sure, they may be more labor intensive, but maybe that's okay. After all, my slave labor, ahem, I mean, my daughter, is almost nineteen months old. She'll be ready to use a rolling pin in no time.
Then things are really going to get fun.