There are a few things quite evident when cooking with a real Italian Nonna.
I am much taller than I remembered.
Kitchens don't need to be fancy to make the best of the best.
You pick up the Italian language on the fly. I may never call farina flour again, and possibly add an 'a' to the end of many English words. "Farina, it's'a' tha name of the game'a'!"
Oh, it's good to giggle like a school girl again. And french braid my hair!
After a quick coffee and a variety of homemade cookies, Nonna handed me a bandanna and an apron, which felt to me like the best "Welcome to my kitchen, let's cook!" I have ever experienced.
There is no recipe, four hands stepping in as our most valued tools. I feel at home, so very much at home! Out comes the farina, a dozen eggs, a little olive oil and a hand measured tablespoon of salt. Surprisingly, pasta dough needs a lot less attention than bread dough. And just a short while of kneading later, we are ready for the pasta machine. Here again, it's mostly a thing of touch and feel. Give me one of those new cell phones or a TV with far too many options, I am utterly lost. Farina.. it's catchy, isn't it?... I get it. We are friends. I love my hands more than ever, too, even if they aren't super girly and slender. These are working hands and I plan on putting them to good use.
We get a system going, Nonna and I. Before you know it two hours are up, and we've made gorgeous Fettuccine and a big batch of Spaghettini, too. Nonna tells me I am a fast learner. I tell myself she must be telling the truth, an Italian grandma would never tell a lie. I have visions of turning my kitchen into pasta heaven, I think primarily of Ravioli, filled with beautiful things like ricotta, squash and mushrooms. I dream of inviting friends over for a glass of wine and a rustic bowl of egg pasta, swirled with the most amazing cream sauce. Life is beautiful, my friends. A certain beauty no one needs to miss out on.
Of course there's no better way to finish up an Italian morning than with a slice of pizza for lunch, a glass of red wine with one gorgeous ice cube cooling it down to the perfect temperature (hey, when Nonna offers, I don't refuse - she was proud of the ice cube, and I was happy to try something new).
Thank you, Nonna. You've allowed one of my dreams to come true. I hope to cook for you one day and potentially impress you, too. I promise to pass this knowledge on to my girls, and they are going to promise me to pass it on to their kids, I'll make sure of it. You can't put a price tag on something like this!
Photo credits belong to my good friend, Erin, who is also Nonna's real grandchild and super talented, wouldn't you say?