Reader Jen, a longtime correspondent and frequent collaborator, suggested that I consider pasta as a corona project. It’s a very good idea. Pasta is, after all, practically tailor made for times of scarcity. All you really need is flour and water, maybe some eggs. I pondered the idea for a few days, and came close to dismissing it. I’ve already done pasta (though it was quite a while ago and the photos aren’t very good), and anyway most of what I do on the blog here is sweet.
I flashed back to elementary school. Back then I was close friends with a pair of Hungarian brothers. I frequently hung out at their house, up in their tiny shag-carpeted bedroom where they listened to ABBA records almost nonstop. Occasionally they’d invite me to stay for dinner, which was a generally confusing affair for an 11-year-old, with little on the plate that was familiar. Even the cottage cheese was different. Add to that the language the family spoke, which contained no reference points at all for a non-speaker (Hungarian, not being a Romance language, gives up no clues). But their mom was a stellar cook, so I never left hungry. One particular Sunday, she opened my eyes to what were then two shattering concepts. First, that Italians didn’t own pasta as a thing. And second, that pasta could be sweet.
Hungarians, I eventually came to realize, enjoy pasta almost as much as Italians do, but unlike Italians, tend to serve it at the end of a meal instead of at the beginning, and then as a sweet. Often with nuts, generally with a little — or a lot — of sugar on top. They even make a kind of ravioli out of it, derelye (DEH-re-ye is, I think, the pronunciation), which are utterly addictive. Sometimes called “friar’s ears”, they are half-moon shaped in the way that many hand pies are, filled with jam or sweet cheese, and served on small plates in a butter-and-toasted-bread-crumb sauce.
…which is all starting to make my mouth water. So thanks Jen, for a great idea, one that took me down a memory lane I hadn’t strolled in years, maybe decades. I’ll need to looks those guys up! But in the meantime, let’s get to it, shall we?