Traditions are only traditions if someone carries them on. Someone’s gotta make grandma’s cookies, or buy the fruitcake for Christmas, or send out the birthday cards. In our house, it’s making the noodles. That job was always my dad’s – mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting them up. Then, cooking them in a big ol’ pot of beef soup for glorious beef ‘n noodles. A year wouldn’t go by without dad boiling up a HUGE pot and feeding family and friends.
Years go by and the noodles become a bigger task for aging parents. Perhaps this year we just won’t do it. What?! Okay, I don’t have a clue, but, bring it on. Noodles can’t be that hard, right?
The day before the family festivities, I break out the “leftovers” in the freezer from the prime rib I roasted for everyone at Christmas. All those bones have to be good for something. In go the onions, and the garlic, and the spices. After hours of simmering, the stock has become rich and meaty.
The morning of NoodleFest 2011, I spring out of bed at 6:30, determined that it will take me hours to mix, roll, cut, dry and cook all those noodles. Starting at 7:30 after a few cups of coffee in me, I toss a dozen eggs, some water, a bunch of salt and almost 3 ½ pounds of flour in my amazing professional grade KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. Five minutes later, a gorgeous wad of dough is produced, ready for me to knead. After getting my aggressions out on the dough, I clamp the handy-dandy Atlas Pasta Roller (bought for me by dad years ago at Viviano & Sons in St. Louis) to the counter and start rolling, from thickest to mid-thin (we like our noodles chewy in our family). By 9:30 the noodles are rolled, cut and drying on the granite counter. Really? That’s all it took? Cake.
An hour later, with guests to arrive at noon for lunch, I start tossing in the noodles bit by bit. A noodle or two – stir. Repeat. Over and over again until the counter is empty and the pot is full. The trick now is to keep stirring over low heat so they don’t stick together and they don’t burn on the bottom (a nightmare story in our family lore, but I don’t want to go there).
At 12:30, I gather in my dining room with my husband, teen daughter, sister (happy birthday Lill!), parents and grandparents. We each take a bite. I am relieved. They are silky, chewy, beefy and wonderful. I get cheers from the family. Dad compliments me on how good they are. Torch passed. Though I may create many other new family traditions for my family to follow, some old ones are just too tasty to let die.