Monday, October 1, 2012

Strega Nona Noodles

Strega Nona, how much do I love you?  And really, how could anybody not?  This character, invented by Tomie de Paola and first published in 1975, is a lovely grandmotherly Italian woman, who uses her magic to help cure headaches and warts and to help lonely girls find love.

Unsurprisingly (as this is Banned Books Week), not everybody loves Strega Nona; this book has been banned many times because Strega Nona is a witch (her name actually means "Grandma Witch").  Worse than that - Strega Nona is a good witch!  This tells children that, not only is magic and witchcraft possible, but it's desirable, and being a witch is an acceptable career path, which is wholly unacceptable, and it shouldn't be up to the parents to teach their children that there is such a thing in life as make-believe.  After all, we can't let children enjoy themselves too much.

Sigh.  Moving on.

Strega Nona is a lovely woman, but she realizes that she's getting old.  She hires Big Anthony to do her housework and chores for her, so that she can concentrate on her magic.  Unfortunately, Big Anthony doesn't pay attention very well, so when he hears her singing to a pot to call forth pasta for dinner, he doesn't think past how amazing the magic is.  When she goes out for the day to visit a friend, he decides that he will supply a pasta meal for the entire town, and starts up the pot... but how can he possibly stop the pasta from flowing when he didn't pay enough attention to learn the whole spell?  (And what will Strega Nona think when she comes home?)

Many people believe that Strega Nona is an old Italian folktale, but according to the author, she's a creation of his very own mind.  (Yes, the cover says, "an old tale retold."  The old tale is that of the porridge pot.)  I think it is a credit to Mr. de Paola that Strega Nona has taken on such a life that people believe that she has always existed.  It takes an incredible character to stand the test of time, and one even more impressive to pervade our collective memories and insist that she has always been there.  Such is her magic.

Of course, this story is all about pasta, and here's the best way to make your own:
Strega Nona Noodles

1) Get your favorite magic pasta pot, and sing this spell:
         Bubble, bubble, pasta pot,
         Boil me some pasta, nice and hot,
         I'm hungry and it's time to sup,
         Boil enough pasta to fill me up.
2) When you have enough pasta to fill your needs, sing this spell:
         Enough, enough, pasta pot
         I have my pasta, nice and hot,
         So simmer down my pot of clay,
         Until I'm hungry another day.
3) Blow three kisses to the pot.  Do not skip this step!  Let Big Anthony serve as your warning!

Of course, if you don't have a favorite magic pasta pot, you can always try it this way:

1) Fill your favorite spaghetti pot about 3/4 full with water, and sprinkle in some salt.  Bring to a boil.
2) Add your favorite pasta and cook according to package directions.  I used egg noodles, and it took me 7 minutes to cook.  I prefer my pasta al dente (chewy but not crunchy - literally, "to the tooth"), but make it however you like it.  Seriously, though, look at the cooking times: I have a good friend who used to tell me she hated how mushy angel hair pasta was, and it turns out she was cooking it for 7 minutes instead of the 2-3 minutes it actually takes.
3) Drain your pasta and garnish as desired.  Tonight, I used a little butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese - delicious!

Question of the day: Strega Nona is one of my favorite fictional witches.  I also enjoy Glinda and Professor McGonagall.  Who tops your witch list?

1 comment:

  1. You're doing banned books week. You're my hero.