Class and Dignity
When I was a kid, I was very overweight. Not only was I overweight, I also had braces on my teeth. I was teased constantly being called fat, brace face, etc. On one particularly bad day at school, I went home and was very down about the constant teasing at school. My father watched me get off the bus, observing as I walked up to the house with my head down. As I came inside looking like I had lost my best friend, he asked me what was wrong. I told him about being teased and being made fun in school. My father looked at me and as was always the case, Pop had a story.
During WWII, everyone in his town was very poor. Not only was there not enough food to go around, but the Nazi’s would steal from their gardens and take any livestock they might have. However, in spite of all the hardships, my grandmother always held her head high. She always told my father and uncles that they were to conduct themselves with class and dignity no matter what the circumstances. She also told them something that he would repeat to us many times: "While we may not have a lot of money, we have our name, and that is worth more than anything else."
On Sundays they would all go to church as a family, except for my grandmother who went earlier in order to make pasta for Sunday dinner. She would mix in the flour and eggs by hand, rolling out and cutting the pasta before hanging it outside to dry. She would make a tomato sauce with any scrap pieces of meat she could find, stretching every last ounce out of her ingredients. She also made the bread that we would have with our dinner. She always sent my father down to the sea to collect salty seawater to mix into the bread. This was highly illegal, because the government held control over the sale of salt. One day a carabinieri (police officer) caught him sneaking the seawater. He took the jar from my father, smashed it on the ground, and kicked him in the behind.
Flour was bought every week for Sunday bread and pasta. They would buy on credit until their bill became so high that the grocer wouldn’t sell to them anymore. During the lean periods, he wouldn’t even return my family’s greetings on the street because he was so angry with them. Years later, when my father would come visit his mother from America, he would great him with “Hello, Don Antonio!” Remembering the lessons my grandmother taught them about class and dignity, he would stop and speak to him about his wife and children. It was during these times that he realized his mother was really teaching them about respect, and what it took to be respected.
After Pop got done telling me this story he asked me if I understood what he was trying to tell me. I looked at him as said, “Don’t steal salt water or you’ll get kicked in the behind” My father slapped himself in the forehead and told me to go do my homework.
1 egg beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a little well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix by hand. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water to loosen it up bit. Roll the dough into a ball and let sit for 10 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness. Using a pizza knife cut the pasta into strips of desired width.
Using a broom handle balance between two chair, hang the dough to dry.