Reflections on ravioli
Making ravioli is one of my very first memories of Christmas and family. I recall my mom and other ants, uncles, grandparents etc. getting around the kitchen table and preparing these incredibly LARGE ravioli. It was our family joke that all you needed for a Christmas meal at my mom's dining table was 1/4 of a raviolo (1 raviolo was for the very hungry ones). So ... they were not the perfect Italian ravioli, but they were our family ravioli and no matter how much the family members liked to complain and suggest we go buy the "real" ones "dal fornaio," we loved making them and everyone loved eating them. I also have lovely memories of going to pick ravioli dal fornaio with my father, right after mass. I particularly loved being in charge of choosing the type of ravioli. Each had a different shape to indicate a different filling. At home we would triumphantly show our bag of goodies and tell my mom about gossips we learned dal fornaio (did Maria's son get arrested for drugs? Was Luisa still seeing that guy with the crazy hair?).
Much changed from that time but ... not much really. As I moved to the States I continued to make ravioli. This time, fortunately, with friends who were better at making them than anyone in my family, so my skills improved. I cannot count the number of dinner parties where I made fresh ravioli. I almost do not feel like it is a dinner party if the table is not covered in flour and freshly made ravioli. Ravioli were also one of the first things I cooked for my husband (although he claims that the lasagna is what made him realize he needed to marry me). Ravioli were also at the table when, as poor graduate student, I was forming a life long friendship with two amazing people that share my love for food, community and supported me throughout this entire farming adventure, Justin and Michelle Turcotte.
More recently, I have had numerous raviolo lab-parties (I am a professor with an active research laboratory at UVM). Students that work for my laboratory come to my house where I teach them how to make ravioli. No matter what I do, food tend to infiltrate the tissues of any relationship I develop. In my lab we work hard and play hard, We also like to enjoy feeling like a team and having adventures together. One year I took everyone to Italy for a conference and of course we first had to have a Renaissance Dinner at my house as an introduction to the history of the place we were about to visit. Most years we simply get together at my place and roll dough. The seniors choose the filling and the newer assistants learn from the older ones how to make the dumpling or how much filling to place at the center of each raviolo.
It is surprising how much love, camaraderie, pleasure, friendship and communion you can fit inside a little pasta dumpling.
These days, I am making ravioli for the market. At times I make them during of Farm Meeting when everyone is around the kitchen islands rolling dough, talking about the new piece of equipment that broke down or while planning the new crops or farrowing schedule. Other times, I make them with a volunteer and you would be surprised of the depth of our conversations - I would be lying if I were to deny that a few ravioli got sprinkled with tears about the losses, joy and the difficulties of our lives as we shared our stories while rolling dough. At the market I have regular clients that share with me little snippets of their lives, the latest book they read, last night's meal they shared with their kid, all the small things that make the fabric of our lives. Once again a small community is formed around the ravioli. I am starting to think that ravioli are a little bit magic.
Given this history, it is clear that part of my mission is to bring ravioli into people's lives. But not just by bringing them to you at the market. I want to teach you how to make them so that you may experience their magic and build on your community made of friends, family, children, neighbors, co-workers ... or even enemies. I find it interesting that we are seeing more and more companies struggling to come up with ideas to connect and "build" a team. All we got to do is take a look at how things used to be done in our households. You do not need to figure out expensive and crazy adventures to have to become a team, just invite everyone to the table, figure out how each person can make a meaningful contribution to the process and make delicious ravioli with them. And then eat them (the ravioli, not the team members of course ... I felt given that I am a butcher I should specify this). Mmmh maybe my next marketing effort will be around providing cooking team building exercises :) it may be a good idea.
I hope I will see you around my kitchen table soon. The first raviolo clinic is February 21st (2015).