Yesterday, my 89-year-old grandmother came over to visit. She lives about 20 miles from my house and although she still drives, we went to pick her up. Our plan was to spend the day making homemade raviolis and homemade apple pies. In the past, the whole family worked on this project – my parents, sister and uncle as well as both my grandparents and us. It is a messy project with flour everywhere. Understandably, when my grandmother could no longer manage it at her house, the tradition sort of died.

A month ago, my grandmother asked me when we could make raviolis again. We planned for this past Sunday and my grandmother gave me a list of items to buy. She was even brand specific, telling me not to buy the runny ricotta cheese I bought last time. (We have not made raviolis at my house for about five years. There is obviously nothing wrong with her memory!)

When I say we make raviolis from scratch, I mean from scratch. We start with flour and make the dough with our hands. The job went to my 10-year-old this year. My grandmother guided her and poured in the water a little at a time, but it was all powered by 10-year-old arms. When it was mixed, the job of kneading went to both my daughters. This year, my self appointed job was photographer. The dough needed to rest for a half hour, so we stopped to make lunch.

My grandmother likes pasta fagioli. It is a peasant soup made of noodles and great northern beans that she had as a child and made for us dozens of times. If you order it in a restaurant, the soup also includes veggies. However, my grandmother grew up during the Depression, so her soup does not include the vegetables. My kids did not like the beans, so they spent most of the meal picking them out. My husband, who was winterizing our yard, came in to join us for lunch. He said he only wanted a small bowl and ended up eating 4 small bowls. It was good!

After lunch, we started the raviolis. There are a few jobs for this process. There is the dough roller, the spooner, the forker and the counter. The dough roller rolls out the dough. This job is harder than it looks. After a few attempts by my daughters, it became my job. The dough is cut with a pizza cutter. My grandmother kept telling me I was cutting them too small. The spooner puts the ricotta cheese into the cut pieces of dough. This is an important job. Too little cheese and the finished product tastes like a plain noodle; too much cheese and it squeezes out of the sides. The forker presses down the edges of each ravioli. My grandmother kept correcting the kids on how they were sealing the edges. If cheese is found floating in the pot when they are boiled, she will say, “I told you so”. The counter keeps track of how many we make as well as making trips to the freezer to flash freeze before bagging. During all of this, my grandmother spreads flour everywhere so nothing sticks.

We made 170 raviolis yesterday, but in the past when we had more help, we would make over 300. We cleaned up the mess while the counter was still doing the freezing and bagging. Next project was the apple pies. We did not have the freezer space or the time for several pies, so we made one for each of us. My kids disappeared for most of this project.

I peeled and cut 16 apples while my grandmother made the crust. She told me to get the Jiffy pie crust, but the store I went to only had Pillsbury. I think she complained about it five times, including when I dropped her at home. (Set in her ways? I guess at 89 she is entitled.) My grandmother added the cinnamon, butter and sugar and I had to turn my head during this process. Wow! Does she use a lot of sugar! We decided to bake our pies right away so we could enjoy them.

While the pies baked, and the house filled with delicious smells, we had a cup of tea and the coffee cake she brought with her. She invited the kids to play Poka-dice with her. This is a card and dice game that she plays with her senior group and that the kids caught on to quickly. It was good to see the generations having a good time together.

My grandmother often says “This is the last time I will do BLANK”. She always tells us how she might not be here next year. She is right. Who knows what will happen before we see our loved ones again. My children are blessed to have two great-grandmothers and three grandparents still living. It is priceless to have them share some part of themselves with the kids. I hope my kids remember those moments and share them with their own children and grandchildren.

Advertisements