You could say that January came in like a lamb and is going out like a lion. The beginning of the new year is always full of promise, but goals and resolutions don’t always progress as swimmingly as one might hope. Put another way, I suppose what I’m continually surprised to discover is that it’s rather easy to plan, plan, plan, but infinitely more difficult to execute things…especially in the face of the unexpected.  For example, I didn’t expect to get sick so early in the semester and to have to cancel class today. I was just finally getting into a dissertation writing and back to school rhythm when, lo and behold, one of those nasty January viruses came and knocked at my door. Several cups of sage tea and many (an embarrassingly large amount of) Nashville episodes later, I finally felt well enough to write this post, which is more than somewhat overdue. This, I suppose, is just going to be the way of things for the next few months; it’s best to accept, rather than to deny, this simple truth. 

You see, I made this pasta–tons and tons of pasta–back when the Greek, Elektra and I were still in Pennsylvania. My grandparents, who kindly bought us a pasta making attachment and ravioli maker for Christmas, wanted to show us the way of things. They don’t really measure and they do everything in the kitchen, save for baking, based on experience and texture. This is how we ended up spending the majority of our New Year’s Eve (pasta making for the new year seems to be a tradition of mine) in my grandparents’ food studio, less glamorously known as the back cellar. Truth be told, the lighting wasn’t great, but does that really matter? The skills we acquired were invaluable, although I have the feeling that, when the Greek and I set out to do this on our own, it’s going to be pure trial and error. That’s my grandpap (isn’t he adorable?) and the Greek (with a beard, i.e. my favorite look) in the photo above; I should mention that my grandpap was hamming it up for the camera, knowing that these images would end up on the blog. My grandmother, on the other hand, expressly forbade me from featuring her–at least in photo form. I got a cute one of her and my grandpap that will make it into a frame when I one day get around to attending to such matters.

This pasta making, it was hard work. We split the duties, some of us kneading dough until our hands hurt (by the end of the day, we had used 18 eggs and about 5 pounds of flour!), some of us filling the waiting dough with pillows of ricotta and some of us working the machine. It was a true team effort; I truly believe that the more hands, the merrier. Pasta-making party, anybody? 

And, of course, making pasta also requires patience because the dough needs to be just so before you can run it through the machine without it sticking together. I’ve never been good at patience. To fill the time, I would take the ravioli out of the florescent lighting and and by the picture window, where the magic of the natural light could show off our little squares of perfection. Because I wanted to see how spinach pasta was made, we kneaded spinach (blanched and drained thoroughly; you can use a can or frozen or fresh) into half of the pasta dough; I liked the look of the multi-colored ravioli dusted with flour.

I also acquired another important culinary skill this past January: chocolate making with Benchic (you would think the name would sound terribly French when spoken Benchic, but I was amused to learn that the owner of the company, who had spent some time in Russia and was named Ben, decided to call his chocolate company Benchik, the Russian diminutive of Ben. As we can see, clearly I can never escape the Russians). This was largely thanks to the Greek, who decided that this would be just the thing to get me for Christmas (Christmas was good to me this year). And it was a lot of fun and incredibly informative. I never realized that chocolate making could be so easy: just go and get cocoa butter, some quality honey, cocoa powder and molds and you’re good to go. 
And even if you never make chocolate again in your life (which will not be the case with me), what could be better than spending an afternoon eating chocolates and sipping red wine? Most likely, you agree.

In a way, given how busy my January has been, it’s no surprise that, between all of the running around and writing, that I’ve ended up achy and congested. But the show must go on. There’s grammar to teach and pages to be written. And because of that, I’m glad there’s always chocolate…and, for the time being, Nyquil. 
Here’s to hoping for a healthy and productive February!

10 thoughts on “Notes from the Underground: January

  1. OMG! You made ravioli! And chocolate! Your Grandpap is truly adorable 🙂 And I am jealous! I have had my eye on the pasta attachment for ages and just can't seem to get myself to bite the bullet and buy it. Maybe the time has come! Also, how much do you love Nashville? I am a little obsessed. I was so sad when I saw there wasn't a new episode this week. I need a certain amount of Connie Britton in my life on a weekly basis. I am so sorry you are sick and hope you feel much better soon! Wishing you many hot toddies!

  2. Ok. That chair in the background in the back cellar. My grandmother had one. And I had to sit on it when I was in trouble. Thanks for the memories LOL. How important are the hands here btw? They know when things are ready – when they are springy, tough, sticky, doughy enough. We've lost touch with our hands, and their ability to be active. I'm glad you are trying to stay in touch with yours. I'm trying to stay in touch with mine too. Sadly, I've lost my teachers:(. Which Pap is this?

  3. Your Grandpa is adorable — I love that photo of him with the Greek; it's priceless to have such a sweet moment captured. Pasta-making seems like the perfect party theme to me, and the thought of such a gathering is truly a light in the darkness of the gloomy January-that-flew-by. Seriously, the first month of the year is over, and I, too, am addicted to NyQuil and wondering where the time went. At least I can dream about homemade chocolates and wine, thanks to you…

  4. Yes, yes, I did! And thank you for the agreement about my pap's adorableness.

    I would say it's best to bite the bullet and buy it. It's really fun and surprisingly easy.

    As for Nashville, I am obsessed. I even kind of like the music, although some of it has a little too much honky tonk for me. But I could wear those sequins and boots with pride. 🙂

  5. Haha! It's funny to think of a sewing machine chair as being a weapon of child punishment, but there you have it. We make use of what we have.

    This is my mom's dad; my father's dad passed away about 10 years ago. He lived in Florida while I was growing up, so I didn't know him so well.

    I agree that we've lost touch with our hands, which is why this was such a nice lesson. According to my grandparents, the pasta dough should be supple and smooth; in my pap's words, like a baby's bottom. We kneaded it for a _really_ long time.

  6. Thank you! And, yes, the chocolate and red wine combination is classic, but always worth a revisit! Now I just need to find time to make some more chocolate.

  7. Thank you, Moriah! I need to frame that photo, too! Perhaps when I eventually have this pasta-making party, you'll come? Your presence would be both a pleasure and an asset. 🙂

    And let's hope we both recover soon. There has to be something better to be addicted to than NyQuil….if only life would allow for it!

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