Tuesday, September 30, 2008

nana's hands

I don't remember my great grandmother's face nearly so much as her hands. I remember thinking they weren't much bigger than mine, but severely arthritic and bent. Somehow voluptuously so, with how her enormous knuckles joined by slim digits formed two hourglass shapes on each finger and one more on her thumbs. She passed away when I was in second grade, so my memory of nana is fading, not unlike looking at an old picture of her. One part is clear: her bony little fingers poking the surface of some focaccia over and over and over......

Nana's mother brought her to San Francisco from Genoa just after the turn of the century. Landing in the City at that time must have been a sight to behold. Her mother had helped bring babies into this world, no doubt having tough little hands full of tender loving. My nana learned through these hands, then taught her children, and so forth. Focaccia was but one of the foods handed down, but it holds the distinction as the only one I remember seeing nana make. Years later, seeing my grandma make focaccia reminded me how she poked the dough the same way and and how her mother must have taught her. I'd also notice how grandma's hands looked just like hers. Would I inherit these bony looking hands? I used to wonder.

Six years ago, my grandmother was not doing good. Being carried around everywhere by her husband was wearing on them both and she wasn't going to be around much longer. I had come for a visit to cook her some lunch and hopefully pick her brain about some recipes I could write down. I can't remember what I made, but afterwards I recall being on the back porch with afternoon light roasting me and just barely touching her, she was so thin. I asked her about crab cioppino and got a nice outline that was easy to transcribe. I asked about minestrone and got a similar rough outline. I looked at her gnarled fingers and then I asked about bread.
"It's easy."
"Yeah, like nana's focaccia?"
"So, how about ingredients grandma?"
"Eh, flour, water.........bread is easy dear, don't worry."
I looked down at my notebook


"You'll figure it out."

I don't think nana or grandma used sourdough for their leavening. No matter, because somewhere back in that line of knowledge, someone did, and someone else converted over to dried yeast. Besides, grandma's recipe said flour, water.
And so that, is where I start.


K and S said...

great post and great tribute to your grandmother and nana :)

Mimi said...

I second that: Great post. Made me feel all warm and happy!

Zoomie said...

Charming post. I know your kids will inherit that love of baking and cooking from you.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Thanks there. They were pretty darn special and deserve it indeed.

Mimi: Awww! Hugs to you and yours.......

Zooms: I can only hope, and figure I'll keep 'em playing with the dough. Especially the poking part.

Callipygia said...

Hey monkeywrangler, that was a beautiful post. you may not have the same voluptuous hands of nana, but I know you make your food with the same tenderness that you saw in them. Terrific, hope you and your family are well!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Calli: Thank you and thank you. That is very kind of you to say. Hope y'alls are well too!