Corn pudding (Rosalie Harrington)
Food, Lifestyle

When gnocchi gave birth

Back when Barbara and I first met, when landlines were pretty hot stuff, the primary means of communication was verbal — we would talk to each other when we were together, or we might have a quick chat to make a plan on the phone. There was no email, no texting, no cellphones. It may sound prehistoric to some, but that's how it was when we were 15 years old and double-dating our 17-year-old boyfriends.

It's hard to fathom now, with technology always in our possession, how humans used to coordinate meeting up for pizza or a drink without a means to connect once leaving the house, but that's how it was through all of human history until just a few years ago. And that's how it was when we were kids. If you wanted to meet someone, you made a plan first and then each of you went out blindly into the world, with no way to adjust the plan if one was delayed. Somehow we managed to make our plans work most of the time, even without a $1,000 personal computer in our pockets or purses.

Saturday nights, way back when, were spent at the Oceanview Ballroom on Revere Beach. Often, after dancing the night away, we would go over to the West Lynn Creamery and have a grilled cheese and a frappe. When we were a little older we would go to the Willy House in Swampscott or a movie at the Surf. For special occasions we went to the Colonial for dinner, followed by dancing under the stars on the patio. We were both 20 years old when we married, and we both got pregnant right away, the way good Catholic girls did.

My first apartment was in Beachmont, hers was in another section of Revere. One night, when we were both very far along in our pregnancies, I called to see if she would like to come over and help me make gnocchi, the Italian potato dumplings that are served with sauce. We would often have a cooking date with her Polish grandmother, who lived in Chelsea and taught us to make some of the traditional dishes she learned as a child in Poland, so my idea wasn't a surprise to her.

Having never made gnocchi, I was not familiar with how tender and light they should be. We did know they were not supposed to resemble lead bullets, heavy and dense, but that's how they turned out that first time. They were edible only with a heavy dose of marinara sauce. Later on in that same evening, after eating those heavy gnocchi, Barbara went into labor and delivered Nancy, her first child. Barbara has never let me forget her belief that her labor that evening was induced by the gnocchi.

Years later, we each had three kids (I would later add a fourth), and, with Barbara in Saugus while I was living in Wakefield, we continued double-dating. On our 10th anniversary we went to New York and saw the Supremes at the Plaza Hotel, then "Jesus Christ Superstar." We even had a limousine, compliments of a "heavy hitter" business associate of one of our husbands. It was a blast. We talked about it for ages. Barb always referred to me as her personal Martha Stewart. If she wanted to rearrange her living room we would spend the day moving furniture around until we got it right. She always loved coming to my cooking classes.

Barbara has always been there through the years. When I was getting ready to open Rosalie's, she and her husband Richard would help with painting and other challenges in pulling the place together. During the same period, when Barbara was in her early 30s, she decided to go to nursing school, her profession for many years, which was important when Richard passed away when he was barely 55 years old. Years later, when my parents were both in an assisted living facility, Barbara would help to care for them until they passed away. They were both crazy about her.

After being friends for so many years, I was concerned when, this fall, I tried a few times to reach Barbara without any response. I decided to call her daughter in Maine. "Auntie Ro, she is in assisted living." I almost dropped the phone. There was a contact list of the people that she wanted notified, but with all of the logistical concerns those calls had not yet been made. She was still settling in when I decided to visit the facility in Wakefield. I brought her a photo of the two of us, taken about 30 years ago, which I put in a cute frame.

"I want you to come every week," Barbara told me during the visit. Her new home is warm and inviting, and I liked the idea of dropping in for regular get-togethers. I took a second trip to see her when my daughter Kathy was visiting from Florida, timed perfectly for the "cocktail hour," which the facility holds between 3 to 5 in a beautiful space decorated in warm colors. Barbara had made a pretty necklace. "They keep you so busy," she said. But she appreciated our coming by, and I will pick her up soon and bring her to my house for lunch with someone I knew from Eastie in the fourth grade who is also a resident. I will serve them some light and tender gnocchi, for old times' sake, with hopes of causing no medical emergencies.


Corn pudding

Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists. Although I am not a big fan of Mexican food, I love Frida's recipes. “Frida's Fiestas” is a recipe/reminiscence book written by the daughter of Diego Rivera, Frida's husband. Frida celebrated birthdays and feast days in the book, as well as her enthusiasm for cooking, painting and entertaining, which makes for an inspiring and exciting book. One of my favorite recipes that I've adopted from Frida's recipes is corn pudding, which is great as a side dish or on its own with a little soup and salad. It is especially comforting this time of year as part of a holiday meal.

Cream 12 Tbsp. butter with 1 cup sugar.

In food processor, puree 7-8 cups of frozen corn with ½ cup of milk.

In a small bowl, mix 5 tbsp. flour with 1 tbsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt.

Separate five eggs and beat the egg yolks with the flour mixture and mix well. Combine the butter, corn and egg yolk mixture. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the corn mixture.

Butter a baking dish and pour in the batter; bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If you would like to make a sweet pudding, you can add chopped apricots, dates or pine-nuts to the mixture before folding in the egg whites.

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