The Great Gnocchi Incident

by Laura on August 2, 2009

in Blog

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I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have made if from scratch. I should have had done a bit more research. I shouldn’t have had a meltdown.

But it happened, and I’m sure it will happen again.

Now as I look back, with a few days between the now-famous gnocchi incident and my clear mind, I can see exactly what went wrong. Poor planning, relatively stressed out mood, and a way too late start.

It was just that tub of ricotta sitting in the fridge, just ready to reach its “sell by” date, and a desire to make this recipe that has long been on my list of things to do.

As I gathered ingredients, the kids heard noise in the kitchen and quickly arrived to see what was up.

“What are we having,” Keely’s favorite line.

“Gnocchi,” I said. What immediately followed was a linguistics lesson – how to get the right sound of “gnocchi” out of their mouths.

The twins eventually lost interest in the lesson, and wandered off to play. But Grayson was pulling up the chair ready to help. He was a big help making the dough, but since it took very little time to put together, he was antsy waiting the 30 minutes for it to chill in the fridge.

When that time arrived, I moved everything to the kitchen table, and set up cutting boards for Grayson, Addie and Keely – Nicole was taking a late afternoon nap.

We each floured our boards, the floor, the table and our clothes. I then divided the extremely sticky dough and began to roll it out.

With time ticking and the kids screaming, “I want to roll it out,” I instinctively just added more and more and more flour.

Eventually, I was able to roll it out with the kids begging for their own to play with. I cut off a bit and handed the twins some, then gave Grayson a bigger piece to cut into the 1” gnocchi bits.

As I was trying to make the dough manageable, a thought kept creeping into the back of my mind . . . the kids are just not going to eat this –especially since they can see green (i.e. spinach) in the gnocchi. But I had to move on, time was ticking, flour was spilling, dough was sticking and water was boiling.

I think the biggest distraction was the time. You see, I need dinner served at a certain time so I can escape afterwards and get a swim in before I give Greg a hand getting the kids down to bed. It’s a well-oiled time schedule that I desperately need to work in order to get a little exercise in and relieve the day’s bottled up stress. (You know, the ‘It’s summer and all four kids are at home waiting to be entertained while I’m trying to meet a deadline for an article” stress)

Greg popped in for a moment to take some photos of the gnocchi-making experiment. He left just as I was moving to the stove to start cooking. Cook gnocchi for three minutes, in small batches of 15. I plopped the first 15 in the water, and set out to clean up the kids. By the time I turned around, the water was a murky gnocchi color, and I could only fish out a handful of indistinct blobs.

The stress began to rise. I put more in the water, as the clock was ticking, and I set to clean up the table and ready it for eating. Back of the mind was knocking again, “They’re going to take one look at this and scream, ‘I don’t’ like it. What’s that green stuff?’”

I moved forward, without thinking this through, and once again, a handful of blobs that I’m not sure I would eat were fished out of the gnocchi broth.

Reaching full frustration at this point, I said a few things under my breath, then barked at Grayson, who was innocently standing by waiting to help me, to go get Daddy.

By the time he arrived, I was in full crazed mode – dinner was a mess, I was seeing my relaxing swim time disappearing, and there wasn’t much in the fridge that I could whip up as a back up meal.

As Greg swooped in, he ordered me to get away from it all. After a few more minutes of madness pacing around the kitchen, I eventually retreated to the bedroom. When I returned, I was still upset about the failed attempt at gnocchi, but glad things were out of my hands now. Grayson quickly came to my side with a card reading, “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad,” and a picture of perfect, un-melted spinach gnocchi. In a further attempt to make me feel better, he kept reassuring me that he was going to taste it.

We sat down to dinner, gnocchi with a bit of fresh tomato sauce. As expected, Nicole stuck her nose up at the whole thing. Surprisingly, so did Addie. But Grayson and Keely dove right in and ate it up. Of course, whether Greg liked it or not, he obliged by finishing his meal.

In truth, it wasn’t all about the failed gnocchi attempt. But I think the failure just was the last straw in what was a stress- filled day. It is hard to focus and enjoy the process if something is eating you up from the inside. It should have been fun – even if it didn’t turn out. Cooking is constantly trial and error and you can’t be discouraged by one failed attempt.

Believe it or not, but I’m ready to jump back into gnocchi-making. This time around, I’ll make sure I have set aside the proper amount of time to make them, and I’ll always, always have a backup.

(To make me feel better, Grayson decided to make me a picture of tonight’s gnocchi — see above)
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