Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Does it taste good?" Thoughts on family history, traditions, and food.

My Grandma Carol makes the most delicious canederli you'll ever eat in your whole life. They're dense and hearty and full of flavor. They're also full of history. Grandma learned to make them from her grandma, who very likely learned from her mother or grandmother.

(Side note: I've also seen it spelled kenederle, kanederly, and canederle. I have no idea what spelling is authentic and "correct." If anyone reading this is knowledgeable about foods from the Italian-Austrian border region, please fill me in.)

Canederli is a traditional dumpling that is made of dried bread, chopped meats, and an onion. The dumplings are held together with eggs and a bit of milk. The dumplings are cooked in simmering (not boiling) stock and served hot and still steaming. Canederli is very typical cucina povera fare. Cucina povera translates to "poor kitchen" and this is the type of food that was typical in the peasant diet. Cucina povera recipes call for staple ingredients, and those that could easily be found locally, or like this one, used bits and ends of leftovers to create something filling and delicious. Peasants weren't in the habit of throwing out still-usable food, and neither am I, so this recipe that has been passed down for generations has a special place in my heart.

First, we start with the bread.Traditionally, staling bread would have been torn apart into small pieces, here I have my two sweeties ripping into some day-old bread from my lab. Because the bread wasn't stale, the torn pieces were dried in the oven for a few minutes.

While the girls were being my helpers, I explained to Lana how through the generations, it's typically been the women who have cooked for their families, and therefore it's been the women who have passed on their family's food histories and traditions. I'm not sure she felt the true weight of what I was trying to teach her, instead asking, "Yeah, but Mom? Does it taste good?" She's clearly only focused on the end result and hundreds of years of tradition can be thrown out the window if the recipe in question doesn't taste good.

The dumpling balls came together nicely.

And the end result? It tastes good, Lana. So very good!

1 comment:

frestonfam said...

Looks yummy. Next time I come visit you will need to make some.