Of course, these days we eat leftovers. You have to when you have children, otherwise you’d be throwing out enough food to feed an army. I find it difficult to throw out food, another reason I could never be a chef. In my waiting days I was always astounded at the way people paid a fortune for food and then left half of it on the plate. A thirty dollar steak becomes a sixty dollar one (on paper) if you eat only half because it was too well-done for your liking. Why not stay home and cook it yourself – to your liking – and toss screwed-up fifty dollar bills into the fireplace afterwards instead? Because they’re plastic these days, I hear you say; and you can’t toss them because they float and flip in the air and land well short of the hearth and you’re right. It was a shame when paper money was phased out, because you could no longer liken yachting to standing under the shower tearing up hundred dollar bills. A waste of a good metaphor. We started this paragraph eating leftovers and ended up sailing off the Whitsundays. Life’s unpredictable. Now let’s get back to the subject.
We cook up a mountain of pasta for the boys and they don’t eat it. Or rice. Or toast. Or broccoli. So it gets turned into something else later; and when they have gone to bed and stopped brawling and there is a beautiful, rare serenity in the house, we eat and pretend two toddlers haven’t already pawed over dinner in its previous manifestation. But then, you never knew what the chef in the restaurant did to your food either.
The other night Tracy whipped up a small mountain – Mt Baw Baw below the snowline perhaps – of potato mashed with pumpkin. They ate their broccoli and they ate their crumbed cutlets (children’s gourmet food) and they ate their carrot sticks and their slices of buttered bread and their home-made crispy apple cake and custard, but they left the mash. Then they went to bed. And every story about children should end with that sentence.
I could have just fried it and slapped it on the plates. But I spooned it onto a board and made a caldera and cracked an egg into it and more than half a cup of flour and some snipped basil (still hanging on into winter in the sunniest part of the front garden) and folded everything through to make a pliable dough. Then I rolled it into thick cigars and cut the cigars into sections. Gnocchi.
You can’t tell how gnocchi will cook unless you’re an expert who has done it for years. The ingredient ratios and variables mean they could either float, or self-destruct under water; or something in between, like stricken submarines attempting to surface while shedding air manifolds and ballast tanks and conning towers. However, this batch floated brightly to the top and were green-flecked yellow sea-going dirigibles in the threshing water. I lifted them and drained them and placed them in dry-dock bowls and smeared them with melting butter and scattered shards of parmigiana and more basil ticker-tape over them and that was it. They were so light they just about floated off the plate. Complete coincidence, of course. But nice for leftovers.