Sunday, August 07, 2011

Take all of you and eat

It's interim time here. All the tasks that can be done for Uncle Norb at the moment are done and we wait on the administrative wheels of the local sheriff's department to turn tomorrow. Meanwhile, everyone still needs to eat.

There are eight of us at my dad's, add in my brother and his brood from next door, my niece who is on her way from San Francisco - and that makes a baker's dozen for dinner (this will more than double by Wednesday night) The Boy and I are cooking - his famous pasta and my dad's recipe for Malverne rolls.

As my boys worked on beignets for breakfast (a treat that was put on hold yesterday morning), i started the rolls. My youngest niece appeared, wondering if she could help. I set her to measuring out the ten cups of flour (yes, ten!) into the bowl with the proofing yeast. She scoops up the first cup from the bin that holds fifty pounds, and requests the metal spoon to carefully level the flour in her measure. I asked her if she learned how to do this in Girl Scouts. "No, from The Boy."

Her little brother peers into the bin of flour and wants in on the game. His sister bestows the honor of "cups eight, nine and ten" upon him with all the gravitas of a princess offering him an earldom. He's so short I'm afraid he'll topple head first into the bin as he reaches to the bottom (we need more flour). The Little Princess shows him how to scoop and level.

The dough well begun, I turn it out onto the counter to knead by hand. My dad pulls out the large rising bowl (the one so large I can barely get my arms around it). As I turn and stretch the dough, my hands work in a rhythm learned from my father. I leave the finished dough on the counter, while I grease the bowl. I turn back to find my father's strong and sure hands on the dough giving it a few last turns, checking my work not by eye, but by feel.

In this kitchen, in this moment, my mind's eye sees my great-grandmother's (Uncle Norb's mother) kitchen, four generations moving purposefully around it, each learning from the previous, the skills and stories handed on. I can imagine the Little Princess forty years from now, my age, showing a young niece how to level the flour, and pulling a nephew feet first out of the flour bin.

Do this in memory of me.

Malverne Rolls

7 tsp yeast
4 1/2 cups of warm water
4 1/2 tsp salt
10 cups of flour

Proof the yeast in the warm water, stir in the salt. Add the flour, a cup at a time, to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Leave in a warm spot to rise. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and let it rise until doubled a second time. Turn the dough out and knead few turns. Cut the dough into 24 pieces, roll each piece into a rope about 8" in length, tie into a knot. Brush rolls with beaten egg, sprinkle liberally with poppy seeds. Let rise until the rolls double. Bake in a 375F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the rolls are brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Enjoy warm with butter.


  1. This moves me tremendously, though not for the reason you might expect.

    My own family of origin is so fractured that no scene like this will ever take place. And so disconnected from the Christian story that the words would be meaningless.

    I see anew what a gift the narrative and words are to me, who found them in ways other than family tradition.

    And I envy your family its wholeness in brokenness.

  2. What Robin said, exactly.

    You pass things on in more ways than you realize.

  3. Oh Michelle... beautiful and so generous. You give to us always, even in moments like these.

    Fran at work

  4. Wow. Such a beautiful reminder of a Uncle Norb so close to his birthday!