Home on the Range

Gnaw over gnocchi

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Gnocchi share much with their cousins, the pastas, yet retain a unique heritage: rolled from potatoes; hunched into dumplings; and led by that silent "g" cozied up to the "n."

A burden few words share. The gnome is used to the role of odd. He spends his days hunched underground, guarding treasure. Perhaps gnocchi.

Now and then the gnome may emerge, gnar at some woodland creature — a grazing gnu or fluttering gnatcatcher — and settle on a tree knot, or gnarl. The very gnarl that lends its bumpy character to gnarled and gnarly. And gnocchi. The rolled and grooved little lumps would never be named after a striated rock, like the gneiss, or sharp shape, like the gnomon.

The gnome gnashes at a passing gnat. He gnaws on gnocchi, thinking that gnawing is gnathic work — all jaw.

Gnome is also a phrase, tried and true. Strangely, the gnomic canon contains few aphorisms dedicated to gnocchi.

The Gnostic, adherent of Gnosticism, aspires to gnosis — capturing truth. His discipline compels him to seek the divine, to eschew the demiurge.

But the gnome, at least the gnocchi-noshing gnome, happily submits to the demiurge, even the full urge, to heap his platter with gnocchi. Why not? The potato dumplings, boiled tender, toasted in brown butter and sizzled with sage, are divine. And valuable. Without gnocchi, what would happen to Italy, and its GNP?


Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 2 minutes
Serves: 4 as a first course

1 large (3/4 pound) Russet potato, not peeled
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt
About ½ cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves, slivered

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