Upstairs, I hear The Man of La Mancha album playing, my dad singing The Impossible Dream loudly, alongside Richard Kiley. The song resonates with passionate lyrics and musical drama. There is a grief and depth to its poetry that is akin to The Music of the Night sung by Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera. It makes me weep with its beauty and inconsolable sadness interpreted between the lines.
I watch as my Abuela places a large quantity of flour in the middle of the table, making a deep volcanic well wherein she expertly cracks three, whole, raw eggs into the core. Slowly, from the sides of the heaped semolina floured hill, she cups the white dust into her hands. She scatters the powder into the crater of yellow, jellied mounds. Gently, she incorporates the flour into the eggs, employing powerful and experienced forearms, wrists and hands. Dough is formed.
It was a messy yet magical process. Unable to resist, I eagerly participated when my Abuela allowed me to. Although it looked like fun – it proved to be an assignment for robust, skilled and mighty sinew.
Abuela divides the mother dough into an even amount of sections and rolls each glob into smaller round baby balls of satiny dough. With a rolling pin, she flattens each on a lightly floured section of the table and then turns them clockwise. She irons out the wrinkles, continues turning and flattening all the way back up to twelve o’clock, then flips the pasta sheets over, like you rotate and spin a mattress. Dribbling flour overhead like snow softly falling, she brushes her fingers over the smooth surface enlarging it further with her rolling pin, using the same process over and over until it’s the consistency and color of creamy muslin, the delicateness of a baby’s powdered bottom and the thickness and texture of velvet cloth.
The record player needle drops and the diamond point hisses as it swishes back and forth until it catches the groove and the LP album of West Side Story begins to play, starting with the overture.
“Según cuanta humedad haya es la harina que vas a necesitar,” (The quantity of flour is determined by the amount of humidity that you have) she explained simply. “Tenes que tener cuidado porque si agregras demasiado, la pasta se endurecerá” (You have to be careful, because if you add too much, the noodles will be too chewy).
There was affection and memory in her work and conversation as she persevered past each stage of alchemic transformation, regaling me with tidbits of information and technical details enshrined in historical family customs.
She deftly spreads teensy amounts of flour onto the elongated flat sheets. Abuela drizzles in flour, waving her hands, she sands, brushes, and sweeps as flour particles disperse with the bottom palm of her four fingers, side to side, up and down so that the pasta sheet is pampered with tenderness, thoroughness and attention.
I hear “I like to be in America, everything free in America” upstairs and mimic the heavy Latina accent and dance up a storm around my Abuela. She laughs and roars with glee, completely enjoying my antics. The scent of sauce fills the house. With every breath, I inhale tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano and bay leaves into my lungs. I cannot wait to enjoy the fruits of our labor!
Cel…every few days I check in and see what is up with you. You sound very positive. I am so glad to have this little peephole to check in with you.
Thora will be a year old on Wednesday. Awesome year.
I have had a major bout with sinuses. Tried everything known to man. Just finally took an antibiotic- hate it, but hope it works.
Rent the movie Hedgehog. You will love it.
Love you, patrice
Hey girlfriend, I hope the meds are working on your sinuses. With little side effects. Happy Birthday to baby Thora! You must be beside yourself with glee!