Saturday, May 24, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 29: Attack of the Gnocchi Python

I’ve mentioned enough times on my blog how my mother’s cooking was always an adventure, but did you know her cooking sometimes involved the principles of physics? Yes, indeed  it did and especially her baking. The incident with the pasta occurred several months after the cake that ate South Philadelphia catastrophe that I wrote about in episode 9.

My mother was determined to make her own hand made gnocchi. This is a dish that normally involves potatoes, flour, water, but with Lucy in the kitchen, her four children were also required. Before I go any further, there are tons of great gnocchi recipes on line. Here is one sample and it sounds delicious:
But, I can tell you right now, my mother did not use this recipe. Mom apparently scribbled her recipe on the back of a sales slip that the woman who owned the bra & girdle shop on Broad and Porter streets gave her. The sales slip was all wrinkled up because it was shoved to the bottom of Lucy’s purse. Lucy didn’t want Fred to know about the expensive girdle. I kid you not!

To make a long story short, Lucy could barely read the instructions, but that never stopped my mom. She was determined to make the gnocchi or else. After making the mixture, she began to roll out the dough.  She rolled and rolled and rolled. The dough seemed alive and it kept growing. It was the size and length of a grown African python. All four of us kids were in the kitchen watching this culinary adventure because my mom thought it would be great idea if we learned how to cook. 
“Mommy, the dough is hanging off the table,” my brother exclaimed in shock.
“Quick grab it,” Mom screamed while  Michael and Lucy tried their best to hold the growing tube of dough, but she needed more hands on board and Jane and I were put on the other end of the gnocchi beast that just would not stop growing. It was a good thing that the four of us were there to help because that sucker was heavy. 
“What the%*&*#%$ are you doing in here?” my father asked mom after peeking into the kitchen. He had been ringing the buzzer for one of us to run in and help with the onslaught of lunch time customers, but when we didn’t show up, he came looking for us. 
“I’m making gnocchi for dinner,” My mother replied, giving Fred her ‘Release the Kraken’ stare.

“I can’t move. The wall is in my way," my brother cried out.
Picture this! Our kitchen table was six feet long. Jane and I held at least another four feet stretched out in our hands and Michael and Little Lucy the same on their end. Do the math!
“Why don’t you just cut the dough into smaller slices?” my father asked, ducking the sifting can that my mother tossed at him.
After my dad went back into the store to tell his customers what was going on in the kitchen, my mother decided to take Fred’s advice and cut the gnocchi python into smaller strips. We helped shape the gnocchi by rolling the tip of our thumbs across the 2” strips that mom had cut from the gnocchi python sized rope.
That night, my Uncle Pat and his girlfriend joined us for dinner. The gnocchi tasted delicious, but the meal was very heavy. Uncle Pat had to undo his belt, Mom had to take off her new girdle, and none of us kids could move from the table. The gnocchi was turning into lead weights inside our tummies.

My mother never made gnocchi again, not while she was married to Fred, but years later when I visited her in California where she was living with her new husband, she surprised me with a dish of her homemade gnocchi. They were perfect; light and very tasty.

Later I asked my stepfather if mom required his help when making the gnocchi. He took a big sip of his Napa wine, looked over his shoulder to make sure mom didn’t hear him and replied, “It was a nightmare. It kept growing.” Some things never change.


  1. Great story! I laughed out loud. At least she didn't knead it too long....then it would have been just a tad chewy!

    1. Joanne, my mother was a disaster in the kitchen until much later on in her life when she took up courses in gourmet cooking. This could be why I was never that interested in cooking :)

  2. I always get a kick reading about your mom and your family. The pictures especially remind me of when I was growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Toronto. Gosh, those were interesting times, for sure!

    BTW, I remember that I Love Lucy episode with the bread! Hilarious!

    1. My mother was exactly like I love Lucy only crazier:)