Today I’m going to pass on a secret that’s been in my family for at least a generation or two, and show you how to whip up a batch of Nonna’s homemade gnocchi which, aside from being the cheapest gourmet-sounding meal this side of the poverty line, is the only thing I ever learned how to cook with conviction and mild success; apart from scrambled eggs on toast, which I still fuck up on occasions.
But before we get started I want to give you a bit of background info. First of all, I swear. A lot. A gift from my father before he went the way of all alcoholic diabetics with a monumental appetite for refined sugar. I also have a birthmark on the back of my left thigh shaped like the Eiffel Tower, or an ice-cream cone; it depends on how far I bend over.
As for the recipe, it all came from my Nonna—a stringy old bird from the north of Italy who, like many folk after the war, found herself on a boatful of other white-looking immigrants bound for Australia to work their arses off and get called a bunch of ‘good-for-nothing wogs’. She was the only one in those days who’d bothered to learn any English, which made her pretty popular around the markets and hospitals and court houses and anywhere else where monolingual Italians used to turn up with any frequency.
Nonna was of the old school of cooks: she could march into any kitchen, sift through the shit on the shelves and with nothing but a handful of flour and a stern look, cook a decent family meal, or a snack for passing Nazis, and by three-thirty in the afternoon she’d have the whole house licking their lips and loosening their pants asking where the nearest couch was. Depending on which day you caught her, her skills in the kitchen were either a talent, a gift, or a wicked burden. But whatever her mood, she’d never tell you to do up your fly and get off the bloody couch until at least the coffee had been served. And no one, except my mother and sister, had to help her do the washing up. Thank Christ for that. And no matter who you were—friend, neighbour, dentist, rude man in line at Medicare—she’d touch you on the cheek or on the shoulder when you spoke to her, because she knew that everyone needed something extra, something tactile, to show that other people were listening to them, and she’d leave you with some nugget of wisdom or down-to-earth advice, even if it involved the best way to take up a pair of men’s trousers.
Okay, so I’m painting a pretty rosy picture here—she might had whacked her kids around a bit too, and shot a few of the neighbours’ dogs because they pissed on her azaleas—but she was generally alright, and I have never understood how, from such a sweet lady as my Nonna, came the rancorous crab monster that is my mother. Continue reading “Nonna’s Gnocchi: A Real Fucking Treat (A recipe)”