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.

Still Window Shopping

She strolled the congested streets of her cluttered memory. She recalled plenty of perfect places to shop for the holidays. Her mind hummed with a variety of concerns as she browsed through windows.

“Should I bother to brave the crazy crowds of the big box store to shop for the holidays? Where in my area are there small shops to browse to find a unique item? Will I choose a trite trend or a brilliant gift?”

Suddenly, the house hushed. She looked up from her keyboard to find herself sitting alone. Her family had just departed to get shit done.

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About this post: I am creating something every day this month as part of a personal challenge and the NaBloPoMo Revival group on Facebook. This morning, I wrote “Still Window Shopping” before getting ready for a day of errands on the last Saturday of November. I limited the length of today’s story to 100 words upon inspiration from a piece of flash fiction posted at Failing Haiku. See https://failingathaiku.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/vengeance-ff/.

Years ago, I created this doodle of how I like to remember the small frontage of the vast cavern of a popular bookstore in Berkeley. (It doesn’t look anything like my doodles.) If you can’t pull away from your computer to shop small businesses locally, consider shopping a small business like Lynn Cobb Silver or Moe’s Books online. See my past posts related to this particular image (or Moe’s Books) as follows:

#NaBloPoMo18 #Create30 #SmallBusinessSaturday #lynncobb #moesbooks

————–©2018 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved

Working Memory: Swing ropes, bad.

Tree-swing_web

I was eleven when it happened. I do remember that. The last day I rode a tree swing.

Trees lined the property up the hill near our house. A thick, braided rope swing was fastened to the highest limb of the highest tree. The swing rope was a popular activity then—especially in the age of thirteen-channel television and bike-riding down to the convenience store. The rope swing was our cheap and easy neighborhood attraction.

One hot afternoon, a friend and were taking turns on the swing. Athletic and invincible, we created games of skill for the 30-foot high swing. It didn’t take long before our daring tricks ended in tragedy.

On my last swing out, my vision (and decision) wavered, my grasp loosened, and the slick rope flew away.

Startled and resigned, I fell for hours. I saw the sun set. I saw my friend talk. I saw my folly wink.

I felt the deafening, wooden crash as I met the root of the tree.

My short-term episodic memory systems felt it too.

 

© 2011 Steph Abbott. All rights reserved.

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Tonight’s post was inspired by the word “memory” and the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) writing prompt, “Do you have a good memory for some things and not others?” The ultimate answer is yes. The post is why. I created the image last year on my iPad using Sketchbook Pro and TypeDrawing. The tree and the overall scene is not to scale, or for that matter, appelation. Consider it artistic license.