School holidays should come with warning signs: Beware Arguments about Time Spent on Gadgets; Do Not Bring out the Credit Card Daily; Stop! Sibling Rivalry Ahead; Avoid Movies with Scratch-and-Sniff Lolly, Fart and Snot Smells At All Costs.
In my day, the signs used to read ‘Hop on Your Bike, Ride Around the Dangerous Streets of Collingwood Without a Helmet, and Come Back at Dinner Time’. Those were the days.
Thankfully, I have found a weapon against all the modern ills that seem such a big part of school holidays. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a knight clad in silver armour. He went by the name of Sir Imperia. He was beloved to parents across the land, because he did not require batteries or a power point. He simply ate eggs and flour. And he helped one family have fun and feel connected for a whole afternoon. The End.
Our knight in shinning armour was a heavy, hand operated pasta-making machine, which admittedly, we have ignored in days gone by – it has sat in the cupboard gathering dust for over a decade. We were inspired to take it down after watching a young contestant on Junior MasterChef claiming she made pasta at least a few times a week. I tried not to scoff in front of my awe-struck daughter - bullshit, I wanted to say. But I held my tongue, and turned my cynicism into a positive. We too would make pasta.
First, out come the reference books. We referred to the greats – Stephanie Alexander, Terence and Caroline Conran, The Women’s Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook circa 1984. In the end, we decide to go with the Conrans’ fresh egg pasta as it's so simple: three eggs to every 250-280 grams of flour. We doubled it to make enough for five entrée-sized serves.
All you do is place flour onto a board, and make a well. Break the eggs into the well, mixing with your fingers until well combined. Then knead, adding extra flour if required, until the dough springs back. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. Cut the dough into pieces (as many pieces as eggs used) and pass through the machine. Start with a large setting and gradually work down to a thinner setting. We made fettuccine, but there is also a linguine setting on our Imperia Tipolusson Sp 150, bless its sweet little heart. Boil until al dente in salted water. Bellissimo!
Oh, the collaboration that took place that afternoon. Our daughter, her friend and our son took it in turns to feed the dough through the machine, and 'catch' it at the other end. They worked together to lovingly place it over a curtain rod across two chairs. They carefully brought it to the pot, and then sat around the table talking excitedly about the experience – now this is the stuff that gladdens a poor mother’s heart.
The experience was so inspiring, I have decided that on the next school holidays I’m going to put up a new sign – Make Pasta, Not War.