Echoes and Mementos

Thoughts and pictures about cooking, eating, reading, writing, and living.

Tag: Nanni

Recipe Cards

When you read books of fact someone is telling you about the past. You are mostly passive, a listener. When you read recipes you are actively reconstructing and exploring the past. I once read a few Roman recipes. They were from the empire, and they were translated from Latin. Pasta had not yet evolved. Romans instead ate a polenta made from wheat; corn was stuck in the Americas, and so was a favorite jungle-fruit of mine: the tomato. Cooks seasoned food with garum, a fermented fish sauce, similar to the condiment popular in Southeast Asia today. People and foods change; through old recipes we can imagine how we used to be.

My grandparents recently sent me some recipe cards. Mostly, they come from my great-grandmother, who herself came from Avellino, Italy (near Naples) to New York by way of Albania and Budapest. (Recall: the woman who gave me the idea for eggles gnocchi.) She settled in the West Village. Here is a curious fact, for in the West Village I have idled away some Saturday afternoons, slinking into shops, wandering, buying tea and cheese. I am interested in the recipe cards for the food, yes, but also for the portal to Italian-American New York of a century past.

“Christofer,” my Nanni recently asked, “where do you get your tripe?” I don’t know where I get my intestines for cooking, because I don’t know anyone who will eat them with me, except maybe Shadow, but now that I have a recipe for the spongy organ I will search for a butcher who carries it.

Look for some of these foods in the coming weeks and seasons.

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Nanni’s Pea Soup

My grandmother’s pea soup takes two minutes of work to make. While the soup simmers for an hour and a half, read a book, watch a show, take a walk. A pot of the stuff costs $3 or $4. Best of all, she does not soak the peas beforehand.

Serves 2 (as a main)

2 cups   Dried split green peas

8 cups   Water

3            Bay leaves

1            Garlic clove, peeled

1 tsp      Salt

Pepper

1) Rinse peas in a colander. Dump them into a large pot. Add water, garlic, and bay leaves. Set heat to medium-high and cover the pot.

2) When the soup starts to bubble, uncover the pot. Tinker with the heat so that the soup is cooking at a strong simmer, just below a full boil.

3) Let the soup simmer for an hour and a half. Stir when the mood strikes.

4) The peas should be mostly dissolved in the water; the soup should be thick and viscous. Remove bay leaves. Add salt and a few grindings of pepper. Stir. Eat.