Gnocchi: A Tale of Recoil and Reconciliation.
July 28, 2012
It was frigid and night had long fallen. Our weary troupe of travelers, fresh off a long (albeit it breathtaking) train ride, plodded through quaint alleyways, leaving one unlucky leader to wrangle with the map while the rest of us grumbled. Having been hours since we last ran out of provisions, we were also famished nearly rendering us oblivious to the festive Christmas decorations adorning every corner and the reflection of twinkling lights in the canals liberally throwing romance in the air. Even a beautiful city like Venice can only be so beautiful when the primal instincts of hunger have taken over.
Lacking the wherewithal to hold out any longer, we ducked into the first lighted cafe we encountered. We crammed ourselves and our big winter coats cozily into a tiny booth, and ravenously ordered the most Italian-sounding items off the menu. I salivated anticipating my gnocchi ai quattro formaggi, imagining rich, gooey cheese and fresh herbs sprinkled over the top.
Enter the rude awakening. Each plate that arrived was progressively uglier than the last. And in spite of our voracious hunger pangs that often transform even the most average entree into world-class fare, it was the worst meal in the history of ever. To this day, I still gag remembering how I forced myself to choke down every last bite (of course, we had unwittingly chosen a tourist trap that was priced accordingly), eyes watering and honestly fearing resurging vomit with each swallow.
We had been served what looked and tasted like over-microwaved (you know when your cheese cements to the plate when you leave it in for way too long? Times that by ten.) vittles that had seemingly been re-heated several times over the last century. It was horrifying. But it was winter break and we were best friends on the adventure of a lifetime. The exhilaration of backpacking around Europe with three of my favorite people was just enough to keep the tears at bay.
It wasn’t enough to prevent a long-standing grudge against gnocchi though. That nasty plate of pure hate is the stuff my food nightmares are still made of, and I have not dared try any other variation since then.
Until now. With a surplus of ricotta in my fridge and precious lemons begging to line my tastebuds, this concoction of lemon ricotta gnocchi popped up in my recipe search. I figured something fried in butter couldn’t be that bad. Intrigued, I had to try it even as terrifying visions of that scarring night haunted my instincts.
Gnocchi and I have officially mended our previously irreparable relationship. (Venice still owes me.)