Remembering My Mom’s Ravioli

Thanksgiving is tough for me this year. I lost my mom just last week, and all I want to do is talk to her and eat her delicious meals. My heart breaks thinking I’ll never hear her voice or taste her cooking again.

My mom

Mom made Thanksgiving meals wonderful, whether Thanksgiving was hosted at our home or at my dad’s siblings’ homes. (We rotated homes each year.) And, for some of those years, mom prepared ravioli as a side dish.

Mom made ravioli because she knew we didn’t enjoy dad’s family tradition of mashed potatoes and raisins. Yes, raisins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind mashed potatoes or raisins. However, I never understood why the potatoes were ruined with raisins. I didn’t like my paternal grandmother’s raisin pie for dessert either. I appreciate some of our family’s traditions, but I choose not to continue those involving raisins. 

Like most women born at the end of the Great Depression, my mom cooked from scratch mostly. She prepared the stuffing (sometimes with cubed left-over, dried-out sourdough bread), simmered and whisked up a gravy (from the turkey’s broth and giblets), mashed the potatoes (sans raisins), cooked down the cranberries (dashed with orange juice and Grand Mariner), steamed green beans (tossed in olive oil, lemon, and slivered almonds typically). Everything tasted fresh. I find myself lucky never to have tasted a green bean casserole.

Mom rarely followed a recipe. She modified recipes to meet whatever ingredients available to her at the time. Her practical process made every dish memorable.

Today, I will share my memory of my mom’s process for making ravioli. 

Not my mom’s ravioli.

She sauteed some meat (either fresh or what was leftover from last night’s meal), something green and leafy, onions, garlic, oregano, and basil. No measuring amounts, just eye-balled it. She added a dash of salt and pepper. When it looked to be done, she’d scrape it into a big bowl. She let the sauteed ingredients cool then mixed in the ricotta and parmesan. (The types of cheeses changed with whatever was in the fridge, as did the meat.) As the prepared mixture cooled, she made the dough. In her younger years, she made the dough on the kitchen counter or table, rolled it out by hand, spooned and dolloped the mixed ingredients onto the expanse of dough in a grid pattern with generous imaginary borders. She topped the whole thing with another layer of rolled out pasta dough. She ran her finger along the imaginary border pressing the doughs together. She followed her path with that weird wavey wheeling knife tool to cut and separate the mass into ravioli. In her later years, she bought the pre-made circle-shaped wonton wrapper dough at the grocery store. She didn’t care about not making the dough; she was practical. She was getting older, her hands and back needed a break from standing so long. And she had to make more ravioli, since the dinners had grown from 12 people to about 26 people. The sauce for the ravioli was prepared the day before. The ingredients varied with what was in the garden or fridge and whether the ravioli were meat or ricotta lemon. 

Tonight, I will serve ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner. But I won’t make it from scratch. My heart (and kitchen) are in a shambles. I hope to make it for my family next year.

Cheers! 🧡💛🤎

Ravioli Dreams of Nonna

My dreams of preparing ravioli from scratch are inspired by mother and brief memories–real and imagined–of my maternal grandmother. I grew up calling her grandma, but now I want to remember her as nonna.

Steph’s nonna

Nonna was born in America in 1913 of Italian heritage. Her mother from Abruzzo, her father from Calabria. She lived a life I know little about, yet her shy muted spirit lives in my heart.

My few memories of Nonna have the naive fuzzy edges of a six or seven year old. She had gray hair and carried the weight of her years in a barrel atop two short legs. She lived humbly, in a rundown home patched with corrugated metal and an outhouse, in a depressed community out in the middle of the desert.

Visits with Nonna were short and usually involved my parents bringing her practical items from our middle-class home. (If we got a new kitchen table, then we brought her our old one.) Our trips from the big city took most of the day, with our visit to be just long enough to unload the car and for my folks to address any familial matters. My limited time with Nonna was precious.

Mostly, I remember that Nonna couldn’t speak–Italian or English. Her vocal chords were irreversibly damaged as a young child. Yet the spoken word wasn’t necessary for her to be understood and endeared.

Her smiling eyes would light upon an item and her body would dance. My eyes would follow her movements and my mind would race. Her gestures and facial expressions could tell stories and demonstrate basic needs.

Nonna lifted an item, made some moves, and I understood. She showed me a bottle of milk and raised her hand to her lips. I smiled and nodded. She made me an egg (or was it bologna?) sandwich, and I watched her cook potatoes. Her kitchen was bare, but my belly and heart were full.

Rocco’s Homemade Cheese Ravioli

Unfortunately, I never learned much about her or even how to cook ravioli by watching her. But I liked to imagine the sound of her voice, the stories from her life, and the tastes from her table. Perhaps her voice and her ravioli were as endearing as those of the nonna from my dreams?


© Stephanie Abbott. Sunday, November 24, 2019. The photo of my nonna is from my family tree. The photo of Rocco’s ravioli was taken while I cooked dinner tonight. The memories I shared are inspired from my youth, the ricotta ravioli from Rocco’s NY Pizzeria (“Just like Grandma used to make!”), and the video, “Italian Grandma Makes Homemade Ravioli” published by Buon-A-Petitti at https://youtu.be/n68W0bVolmU.

Sunday Dinners

Sunday dinners can provide for lasting memories–especially when enjoyed with family. For tonight’s  dinner, we prepared an Italian style meal of braised beef short ribs, creamy polenta, and fresh crab salads. Each dish was a labor of love. As we chopped, cracked, poured, simmered, and braised the food, we shared fantastic tales of childhood drama and intrigue. I felt so blessed to enjoy such a special meal.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

This is the the last post for the challenge to post daily during National Blog Posting Month, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Palatable Art

Photo

Update 11/27/2014: Let’s not consume just because we can. How about only when it is necessary? We don’t need that extra bite of pie. We don’t need that new gadget. Just a thought.

It’s just a matter of taste.

May 19, 2011. I doodled this image on my iPad using OmniSketch. Sent from my iPad. © 2011 Steph Abbott. All rights reserved.

Drunken Cauliflower

It’s been a while since my last post. My creative spirit has rested enough. This time I turn to the culinary palate as I share tonight’s colorful meal—Drunken Cauliflower with Thai sweet basil and Cabernet served with balsamic tomatoes.
DrunkenCauliflowe4 DrunkenCauliflower1 DrunkenCauliflower2 DrunkenCauliflower3

Why now? Why this dish? It’s simply the return of spring, the contents of the kitchen, and a day laden with laundry.

For the past couple years, I’ve been on a genealogical journey—albeit mostly via my keyboard and mad online-search skills. Part of my digital passport has included the L’Aquila (Abruzzo) province of Italy. (I don’t know much about that side of the family, as my grandmother’s vocal chords were injured as a child and she could not speak. So, while I grew up with some Italian flavors, I did not enjoy the oral histories di buona famiglia.) Perhaps I can find a culinary connection?

Tonight I prepared a recipe inspired by Simona Carini’s Italian Culinary ABC post for “L” (L’Aquila) at
http://briciole.typepad.com/blog/2012/06/cavolfiore-ubriaco.html

Learning to Savor Time: A brief lesson of work-life balance

Stella considered herself fortunate.
Stella considered herself fortunate.

Standing still and enjoying the moment are two actions Stella has struggled with since she was a child. To pass the time, Stella kept herself busy.  She figured she could accomplish anything as long as she kept her eye on the clock. Turning from task to task was just part and parcel to Stella’s life.

Her kinetic energy fueled her schedule. She worked two jobs during college. She kept fit by incorporating exercise into her routine. She walked or rode her bike to and from every shift, class, and social event. When she moved from the seaside to the desert, she simply traded her mountain bike for an elliptical machine.

Eventually, as the years passed, she married, and her family grew. Stella’s schedule provided less time for personal fitness and more time for the needs of others.

She found that her schedule ran smoothly as long as she skipped one particular task as often as possible—preparing a full meal. To wit, she served tasteless food quickly.

For Stella, cooking was one task that needed fewer details. Stepping through recipes and fiddling with fancy cookware was a burden. She liked to limit the time necessary from recipe to result.  Preparations were best limited to rinsing the meat, rice, and vegetables before throwing it all into a pot with herbs, garlic and a glass of water. If a meal might take more than 30 minutes to cook, Stella considered options for takeout.

Timing was everything. Like any mother with a family and a full-time job, Stella found herself running from sun up to sundown. She stressed daily with dressing the kids, checking their teeth and bags, taking them to school, racing to the office, and processing words. As time rounded, her stress expanded for picking the boys up, fixing dinner, unpacking bags, washing clothes, and checking teeth before she slumped in to bed before the next day’s marathon.

Only on Sundays did she finally relax and refocus her energies. She found escape from her regular reality by filling up her day with someone else’s drama through TV, books, music, or art. Stella loved Sundays.

This particular Sunday she found herself gazing across her desk only to spot an old cookbook. Not the slick, spiral-bound booklet listing with over 100 ways to grill meat. No, what Stella glared at was a classical culinary collection known the country over to most women of a certain age.

She glanced at the clock and sighed, “I find no joy in spending hours tasked with sifting, separating, soaking, turning, boiling, or braising. I never seem to have all the ingredients or quirky tools. And who even keeps homemade, pressure-cooker chicken stock, well, in stock?”

Then the phone rang.

“Hi, mom,” she answered.

For the next 30 minutes, Stella listened to the myriad of meals prepared and activities accomplished by her parents during the past week. Upon hanging up, she considered herself fortunate. Stella realized time should be savored and not simply passed.

“Geez, what was I complaining about? For nearly 80 years, my folks have worked longer hours, raised more kids with fewer resources, yet they continue to find the time to enjoy themselves.”

Appreciating time all the more, Stella reached for the cookbook and opened to the recipe for joy.

————————

Sunday, August 11, 2013. ©2013 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved.

I created the picture of Stella this morning on my laptop using ArtRage 4 and my new Wacom pen tablet. I wrote the story last night.

I have not written creatively for some time. My writing has been restricted to tapping out basic business bother. By the time I get home from work, my head hurts and my body aches too much to be creative. However, after an entire season (or two!) of the doldrums, I’m ready to stretch and start creating again.

Today’s post was inspired by memories of my mother’s cooking. To help me start writing again, I had to use a writing prompt: “Following instructions is really all about…” courtesy of Writing.com. If I wasn’t clear in my post, it’s “all about” learning how to savor time. Also, since this is creative writing, I should point out that not all told is true. I don’t even own the “Joy of Cooking.”