Saturday, February 11, 2012


This week, by noon, we were ready to throw in the kitchen dishtowel.  The kids had been great while on-task, but when they sat down to eat their bowls of pasta and hear a story about--you guessed it!--reverence, in preparation for next week’s tree-planting ceremony…  Well, let’s just say that “reverence” was not the theme of the day.  The theme of the day was more stick-with-it-even-when-you-feel-entirely-discouraged-and-sure-whatever-it-it-you-are-doing-will-never-work. 

Midway through the morning class, when T walked past the kitchen with her group of tired raised-bed carpenters, she asked how the pasta-making was going. 

“Awesome!” the kids chorused, showing off their long cascades of spaghetti.

“Yes, now,” I added.  “But it did require a certain amount of stick-to-it-ness.”  (Refer to the recipe below!)

Fortunately, the kids’ pre-irreverent modeling of that stick-to-it-ness was just the lesson that I needed to help me not flee in terror before the afternoon group came.  The morning group is usually the Calm Group.  Yikes.

But we stayed, and they came, and for my group I laid out the boundaries of expected behavior clearly. (Something like: “I have NO patience today for people not listening.  I have lots of nice but no patience left, so you’re either in garden class or out, and out means the office.”)  And amazingly, that’s all they needed: an adult with no patience left.  We started to measure out the flour, and we each stuck to our job even through the sticky bits, and we all had plenty of nice (even though it seemed unlikely), and plenty of pasta (even though it seemed like it would never work), and plenty of fun (well, of course).

Pasta, a recipe for eight hands

a.k.a. the easiest recipe in the world (to remember, not to make)

1 cup flour

1 egg

Some warm water if it won’t stick together.

Quadruple it to feed ten kids plus helpers (that’s two bowls each with a doubled recipe).

Oh, plus we added some garlic powder just for fun.  Let’s describe it as a “dash.”

Mix flour with garlic powder and make a hole in the middle of the flour to crack the eggs in: one egg per two hands.  Beat eggs with a fork and then mix into flour.  We needed a few tablespoons of warm water to get our dough to stick (probably depends a lot on your flour and the size of the eggs).

Be careful not to make it too sticky as you have to run it through the pasta machine.

Knead the dough and divide into four balls (that’s if you’re feeding lots of kids—if you did the one cup flour/one egg version then you have one ball of dough).  Flatten each ball with hard smacks from the eight hands and crank it through the pasta machine.  Cranking each machine requires at least four hands working on concert to keep the crank going, the machine from escaping from the clamp holding it to the table, and the dough going properly both in and out of the rollers.

Theoretically, the dough will emerge as a long strip of flattened dough.  In practice, it might come out of the machine as a bunch of sloppy dough shreds.  This will seriously challenge the faith that the group previously had in the machine, themselves, and their adult helper. 

Try again!  More shreds.  Cheerlead a bit, hopefully.  Press the shreds into a something resembling a messy slab and try again.  Woohoo!  Bigger, flatter shreds!  We can do it!  Keep going.  Flatten, crank, repeat.  Eventually, if you believe, and stick to it (not to the machine, that would be overly disheartening), you will in fact have a long thin strip of dough.  Which you can fold in half and keep running through the machine as you adjust the rollers to be closer and closer together. 

This roll, fold, repeat maneuver is not in the printed instructions, but if you happen to have watched your friend the professional chef make pasta with this own kids one night, you will recall that he did this so it seems like probably a good idea.

Miraculously, the sheets eventually turn shiny and beautiful and you can move the crank handle over to the noodle-cutting part of the machine, and crank the sheet through to the delight of the owners of the eight hard-working hands!

(Confession: we used jar tomato sauce.  But we also harvested kale and sautéed it to eat with the pasta.  With grated parmesan for all.)


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