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Eating the Past: Dumpling duels

A bowl of ravioli with marinara sauce
sheprayedforhim, Photographer

Laura: Welcome to season three of Eating the Past, I’m Laura Gelfand, and
I’m here with Tammy Proctor. Today we continue our exploration of the
mysterious and hard-to-pin-down dumpling by tackling how Italian
variations on the dumpling complicate our understanding.

Tammy: Let’s have a look at the gnocchi, an unassuming little bit of
potato-based dough that when prepared correctly will melt in your
mouth. The delicate and fluffy gnocchi needs little in the way of sauce.

Although I should say that at Le Nonne restaurant in Logan, there is a
dish that is extremely decadent, gnocchi in a heavy cheese/cream sauce.
But more often gnocchi is served with just a simple tomato sauce or a
brown butter and sage drizzle.

How does one make gnocchi? Traditionally it is made with potato, flour,
and egg, and the little rounds are carefully simmered or cooked in a
broth or sauce. I’ve seen recipes for gnocchi made with ricotta, but I
think that might be pretty unusual.I guess I would consider gnocchi
a dumpling, Laura. what do you think?

Laura: Every dictionary, cookbook and online source seems to agree
with you, Tammy. I was fortunate enough to take a gnocchi-making class
with chef Barney, executive chef at the local restaurant, Barrel and
Stave, and his gnocchi are out of this world.

Unfortunately, I find it too easy to buy shelf-stable gnocchi and use that,
so I have never made his delicious pillowy dumplings at home. On the plus
side, Barney reminds me of my failure to do so every time he sees me.

Tammy: Italians get to have two very different kinds of dumplings with
gnocchi and ravioli. And this once again brings up the question of
whether dumplings should be stuffed or not. I’m also thinking that
orecchiette also is a bit like a dumpling, especially in places like Puglia.

Laura: From what I can tell, orecchiette also count as dumplings, and
ravioli definitely fit the bill. clearly the definition of the dumpling in
Italy is as broad as everywhere else in the culinary world.

Tammy: Next week join me as I look at the delicacy known to the British
as a scotch egg. Is it a dumpling? Judge for yourself! Listen each week tor
Eating the Past every Sunday at noon, right before The Splendid Table, on
your UPR station.

Tammy Proctor is a specialist in European history, gender, war, and youth. Dr. Proctor has written about Scouting, women spies and the way war affects the lives of ordinary people. Currently she is writing a book on American food relief to Europe during and after World War I. She has worked at Utah State University since 2013 and is a native of Kansas City, Missouri.