Okay, we didn’t work, and all memories to tell you the truth aren’t good. But sometimes there were good times. Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep beside me and never dreamed afraid. There should be stars for great wars like ours. There ought to be awards and plenty of champagne for the survivors. After all the years of degradations, the several holidays of failure, there should be something to commemorate the pain. — From Sandra Cisneros’ “One Last Poem for Richard”
Sometimes I remember your hair. Getting lost in it. It was a thicket, a great black forest and through the looking glass I fell and tumbled deep within. Your mother called you the black devil and you swore to yourself that when she died you would spit on her grave. And the day that the casket was lowered and a pile of earth was flattened with a dry palm, you leaned in, said your fuck you and did as you promised you would. Back then you were weighed down by me, literally, and in those first few years you told me that it was strange, frightening that I was a child who never cried. My silence woke you, hurled you out of bed, until you found me wide-awake, a mess of hair, your hair, staring at the wall. Looking through it, beyond it, wondering possibly what was on the other side. I remembered walking beside you, and thinking that we looked a negative of two people, skin paled down to bone, eyes black and gleaming. Sometimes I struggle to picture your face, and when I do, when you finally come into focus, the ticking is the bomb and the world collapses around me.
So much hair. You could canvas a country with it.
While I don’t love you, I sometimes think of you. Because you were my first love, my first hurt. You were once beautiful, I’ll give you this. You with your lithe limbs and mint wrap dresses; your hair was a river. I see you as you once were in a photograph, one that you stole (among other things) the day you left us behind. Funny how I can only remember you through the pictures other people have taken of you. There will always be this chasm, this impenetrable wall, always.
As I grow older I’m frightened that I’ll start to forget it all. I’ll forget the girl who spoke a mixture of English and Spanish, said ti-ti instead of aunt, who knew a girl named Tangerine, who was from around the way. While I live in Brooklyn, it’s a Brooklyn my former self wouldn’t recognize. I think of this as I invite a new friend into my home. Because this is what you did back then. Inviting someone to share a meal in your home meant something.
Twitter is a wonderful thing because it’s allowed me to meet and befriend extraordinary people. My new friend Hitha is someone who clearly pursues her passion, is unafraid of taking risks, of seeing what’s on the other side. You could tell this all by the way someone speaks, and today I spent the day on a food adventure of sorts. Hitha and I decided to fix a pumpkin gnocchi with a sauce of our own invention, paired with a tart that only a mother could love, finished off with a savory pie that came together on a whim. For someone like me, for whom baking is a methodical, planned act, I never experienced so much serendipity in the kitchen. And I’ve found a friend, who, like me, will stand on chairs and contort in order to get THE RIGHT SHOT OF THAT OH! MY! GOD! gnocchi.
The recipe + preparation of the gnocchi is pure Hitha. I played with the sauce and served up the desserts. More on that later.
For the gnocchi
500g (1lb) pumpkin (1 15oz can of pumpkin puree will do)
250g (2 cups) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Extra flour for dusting
A good pinch of salt + pepper
1/2 cup blue cheese (or gorgonzola)
For the sauce
3 tbsp of unsalted butter
2 tsp sage, chiffonade
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp truffle salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
If you’re not using the can of pumpkin puree (and please, for the LOVE OF GOD, do not buy the pumpkin pie mix), peel + deseed pumpkin, slice in medium-sized cubes and cook in salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Puree pumpkin in a food processor until smooth. If you’re like me and still have residual anger issues, go crazy with a potato masher. Return to pan and dry out the mash for a few minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, flour, salt, pepper, egg and nutmeg. Use your hands to mix the dough — it has to be slightly sticky leaving the side of the bowl. Divide dough into four sausage-shaped rolls, and roll each portion gently on a slightly-floured surface, about 1.5cm (over 1/2 inch) thick. Slice dough into little cubic ‘pillows’, approximately 1.5-2cm (1/2inch-1inch) each. Sprinkle flour on gnocchi to prevent sticking. With the tines of your fork, press lightly into the gnocchi to create an indentation.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter until it’s slightly browned and carries a fragrant nutty aroma. Add sage and remaining ingredients. Remove from heat.
Cook gnocchi in a large pan of salted boiling water by batches, if necessary. As soon as they rise to the surface, they are cooked and ready to be served. Drain.
Add the gnocchi into the saucepan and stir, adding chunks of cheese. Serve hot with a friend and savor who you are now, how you’re letting new people into your life, but try, keeping trying, to remember where you came from. Because this is how you got here.