Noodles-Then and Now

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“What’s for supper anyway?”

“Food,” Nan retorted. “Always and only more food! Chicken soup to be exact,” she added, stalling off his next question.

“Dumplings or noodles?”

“Noodles, you noodle. Can’t you see them?” (Steeple in the Distance, p. 182)

I understood Nan’s pain. She had to live with “then.”

Noodles, pasta,  German, Italian, the recipe is the same, flour, eggs, salt and water. The method of mixing is the same. The resulting dough is also the same. The difference is not country vs country, rather then vs now.

Both my grandmother and mother occasionally made noodles from scratch. Mother reserved the homemade noodles process for made from scratch chicken soup. It was a simple procedure. Mix the dough, roll it into a very large, very thin, flat sheet. Cut the rolled dough into desired widths and lengths, and let dry of a dish towel until dumped into boiling soup. I recall the spread of noodles across the table, their edges curling as they dried. I recall the delicate flavor and texture of the noodles in the soup. I also recall how effortless the process appeared.

Silly me. Rolling noodle dough with a rolling pin is hard work. My first attempt left my arms sore, my wrists competing with my back for worst ache award and the noodles fatter than they should have been. The second batch waited until my husband was available to supply the muscle strength I lacked. Home made noodles from my kitchen were a rarity. That was then.

At some point in time, (I suppose because my children were alive they would dub it the start of the modern era) a friend introduced me to cooking the Italian way. Included in the crash course was the home pasta machine. The recipe was the same, the mixing was the same, the difference came in the rolling. No more aching arms. Simply crank  the dough repeatedly through the rollers until the desired thickness, or in this case, thinness is achieved. The machine comes with cutters to again crank the dough into spaghetti or fettuccine. You also have the option of laying the thinned strips on the counter and cutting  your own desired sizes. (Although a pizza cutter works perfectly, my wide noodles and lasagna pasta are less than uniform. Hey, we’re going for taste. Who notices the shape once they’re cooked?)

Then home made noodles were rare. Now I often make some to use and more to store. Try it yourself. It’s like home made bread. Once you taste the difference…

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