Christmas Night. Twenty-three people spanning ages two to seventy-five have spent three days together. Some are vegetarians, and some are carnivores. And Christmas night, they are all crazy hungry.
Our dear hosts, Cory and Linda, slave for three days to entertain the family: walks on the beach, games, music gatherings, and food. Good food. But Christmas night is different. The presents have been opened, the used wrappings are disposed of, and blissful exhaustion sweeps over the family. There is only one more event: Christmas dinner. But Cory and Linda are not allowed to lift a finger. Dinner is our gift to them for their never-ending hospitality.
This year, we have two new additions to the gathering: our soon-to-be son-in-law, Michael, and Fonde. Michael comes for Christmas with our daughter, Sophie, and brings his ravioli expertise and entertainment skills too. We have no idea what a show it will be.
Early Christmas day, Sophie and Mike begin the meat sauce. As the day commences, they concoct a butternut filling and a separate mushroom filling to satisfy the vegetarians in the group. When the time is right, Michael and Sophie make batches of pasta and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to take a nap. The packages look like swaddled babes.
Hours later, the family gathers in the kitchen around the island, many clad in the same red “Merry Christmas, Y’all” sweatshirts, traditional garb for our family holiday.
It’s time for the show. Mike rolls up his sleeves and unwraps one bundle of dough from its blanket; he places it tenderly on the granite counter.
”Rolling pin?” he asks. Silence. The house is new and there isn’t one. No reason to panic. Mike spies an empty magnum too large for the recycle bin. He peels off the label and gives it a dust of flour. “Oos” and “Ahs” erupt as he rolls out two sheets of perfect dough as thin as paper. One awaits filling while the other rests on the side. Sophie spreads cheesy butternut on top, and Michael lays the second layer over it. He carefully pats out the air pockets and sprinkles a bit of flour on top.
The family is silent. “Are you ready?” he asks.
“Go! Go! Go!” yells the littlest in the group. The family takes up the chorus.
Michael holds the Fonde in front of him and takes a bow. Starting at the front edge, he slowly rolls the wooden pin as he presses down on the dough. Rows of perfect pockets form as he pushes forward, each pocket the same size and the same height.
Perfection. Applause fills the kitchen as he cuts them into individual pillows.
Sophie and Mike transfer the ravioli to the stove where pots of sauce steam in anticipation. Kettles of boiling water welcome the ravioli as they sink to the bottom. Just minutes later, we watch them pop to the surface…al dente. From there they are passed to a grill for a crispy buttery cloak.
Michael unwraps another batch of dough. Some family members come forth, their fingers poking the dough, stroking the sheen on the surface. He shows them how to knead until it is smooth as silk. And then he hands them the Fonde. One by one, they knead, fill, and roll, each time coached by the master. By the end of the session, four batches of pasta dough are filled, rolled, cooked, and served to the hungry crowd, each plate adorned with individual layers of sauces, filling, and cheese.
Our family is happy. Mike and Sophie are happy and ready for whiskey.And I’m happy because now I know why my daughter wants to marry him.Perfection indeed.
“Slow down, roll up your sleeves and cook a meal with someone you love.”