Fr. Z’s Kitchen: a spiffy book and thinking ahead

Back in the day, when I was living stably in Italy, I would often be invited to large gatherings of families and friends, sometimes in the countryside on the old family farm or vineyard.   Inevitably there would be a division, the men over here yakking, the women over there cooking.   At one point I would, inevitably, go over to see what the women were making and how they made it.  My entrance – a priest in the kitchen! – usually created a bit of a stir.  However, as I expressed my desire to learn how they made things and got my hands dirty my stock soared.

I was reminded of all this today, when a book arrived from a reader, CG, who also had sent something else that had, long ago, been on my wish list but had been long removed.   I received a copy of

Pasta Grannies

“Well look at this,” quoth I, hefting the book.  “It’s an old cookbook from the 60’s!  And in really good shape, too!”

But… be not deceived as was I by the retro cover!   This is not from the 1960’s, but was rather published in 2019.  I think they laid an amusing trap to perpetuate for just a few more seconds the misjudgment of era by putting the publication information in the back instead of in the front of the book.

What this is, is a cookbook based on some 5 years of videos on a YouTube channel, unsurprisingly named “Pasta Grannies”.  The editor, Vicky Bennison, wanted to documents recipes and techniques that aren’t being pass on very much anymore.

To whom, in Italy, does one turn for that?   Old women!

All the women had to be over at least 65.  One of them is 100.

I’ve watched a few videos.  They are both charming and, for me, inspiring.  With each one I’ve said to myself, “To heck with the Beef Wellington I’ supposed to make next weekend for a priest’s birthday.  I wanna make that!” And with the next video, I revised again.

The book itself has the recipes which the old gals make in the videos.  The descriptions of how to do things are good, but you are also referred to the video to see the cook in action.  And of course that are comments about the region, etc.

I’m glad my Italian is really strong.  It makes the videos more fun, though there are dialect things I can’t quite catch.  That, too, is inevitable, especially when talking to people of a certain age.  Another thing that will disappear, I think.

Not long ago, I dug my old, small, hand-cranked pasta maker out from storage and, for the first time in a long while, made fettuccine.   Dried pasta is one thing, and large-scaled produced fresh pasta is another.  Still another is your own fresh pasta.  I think I might have to talk my mother out of the big Kitchen-Aide mixer she uses once a year and get the attachments.  Hmmm.

Thanks to the reader, CG, who sent the book and other stuff.

Get your own copy of Pasta Grannies.  You can’t have mine!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JustaSinner says:

    Father, KitchenAid attachment? You heretic!!! Hank crank or death my Grannie would shout.

  2. Elaine Vaccaro says:

    My grandmother, who raised 10 children with my grandfather during the Great Depression, made her own pasta. Despite it being in my blood, I’ve yet to take the plunge. Once in a blue moon, I’ll pick up handmade past from Borgatti’s in the the Bronx. Nothing goes down easier.

    The Pasta Grannies YouTube videos are quite charming!

  3. teomatteo says:

    Yes, get that Kitchen-Aide attachment. Makes ravioli fun! (I also got a gnocchi ‘board’ –from my mother-that is great.

  4. Gaetano says:

    I have to laugh when you talk about the dialects. Some vocabulary & pronunciation is preserved here in the U.S. through early waves of immigration that weren’t influenced by modern trends back in Italy.

    My southern Italian relatives still have their Napoletan’ dialect, but when I speak the words I learned from my grandparents here in the U.S., it attracts attention up north. It’s like I stepped out of a time machine.

  5. FranzJosf says:

    I made pasta from scratch this summer for the first time. Flour, eggs, table fork and knife (to cut the noodles), hands, rolling pin. A success! Everyone loved them. Now I’ve gotta get this cookbook. Thanks for informing us.

  6. hwriggles4 says:

    Fr. Z:

    Here’s a story you probably have heard like a broken record from American tourists:

    I went to Italy in high school on a summer trip. First place we went for dinner they served pasta. After I ate mine, the server asked “would you like another plate?” Being a teenage boy, I said “yes please “. After I ate that, next came the main course, followed by the salad, then dessert.

    Yes, great food, and I learned to just have rolls and coffee for breakfast and cut out in between meal snacks.

  7. JonPatrick says:

    An old joke I saw in a restaurant near here – “The problem with Italian food is that you eat and then 5 days later you are hungry again”.

    I live in Eastern Maine off the beaten path and the local dialect is still strong here, even among young people.

  8. donato2 says:

    Interesting that the book relies on “grannies.” This is based on limited and very anecdotal evidence but it seems to me that home cooking skills have fallen off substantially in Italy, at least if you compare old southern peasant women with young, urban northern women (an apples and oranges comparison I admit but it is all I personally have to go on).

  9. Sue in soCal says:

    I love pasta grannies! And I learn so much.

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