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.

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


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.