She was on a self inflicted look out for men with toupees since she learned there was such a thing. She stared at men’s heads in the subway and on the 6 o’clock news. She would tell you she was an expert in the way the color and texture changed from the top layers of hair to the hair underneath and in how the hair should fall on the head.
She was also taken with false legs. She studied the gait of particularly middle aged men, passing by on the sidewalk. She checked for a stiffness in their shoes or shins. She would come to a full stop, to focus on how the legs moved from behind.
She was like the nation’s detective of toupees and prosthetics who worked gratis, and always on the clock.
I am not sure why this was; I imagine she had been deceived one too many times. Maybe she did it to keep her sharp, keep her ready for unexpected truth that was hiding under cover and kept there with the slight of hand. Or maybe it was because she was a queen keeper of subcutaneous secrets and was never sure if the change in her own gait was obvious.
The benefit I suppose, was that she never forgot that nothing is only what it seems. What may appear as a potato can become so much more, in the best way.
The trick with gnocchi is, to never assume you know beforehand how much flour the potato will take. You don’t have to use an egg, but without the experience of having made gnocchi a thousand times before this time, it helps. Boil 3 potatoes that have lost some of their viv and vigor. Peel the potatoes, and make sure that the water is salted. Drain well as soon as they are tender, and return them to the pot. Over low heat, dry the potatoes, just until the stick to the pan a bit. Watch them. Don’t leave them. Turn out immediately, onto a flat platter and smash with a fork until smooth. You can also pass them through a ricer. This is the right way to do it, but I don’t have a ricer. The fork is good enough, just be thorough. Allow the potato to cool to room temperature. Crack one egg in the center, and incorporate with your fingers. Sift a pile of all purpose flour, (or 00 if you are in Italy) into a wide bowl. Spoon about half a cup of the sifted flour onto the potatoes, and gently move the flour into the potato mixture. If it feels too sticky to roll, add a bit more. You should use only enough flour to take it the point that it is just possible to roll. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, if you have 5 minutes. Break off pieces the size of an orange and roll under two flat hands that are connected at their lowest knuckle of the index fingers, into a snake. Your hands should move towards you and away from you, at the same time as they move away from each. If the snake of dough becomes too unwieldy, break it in half. Roll each log to a bit thinner than the width of a narrow candle. Cut the gnocchi into bits the size of the top most section of your index finger. Allow them to rest on semolina or just flour. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Drop them in, about 15 at a time, and as soon as they rise to the top, remove with a slotted spoon to a towel lined sieve, and then on to a buttered, warm platter.
For the sauce:
Simmer a cup of heavy cream over a low heat with a a few garlic cloves, a few sprigs of thyme, and a little salt. When the garlic is soft, pour through a sieve, pressing the garlic through. Taste for salt and pepper. Whisk in a serious knob of gorgonzola, to taste. Add the gnocchi and let them simmer in the cream for just a minute. Return everything to the warmed platter and top with grated parmigiana reggiano and slivered ramps or basil.
I served it with a salad of arugula leaves, with a pesto of smashed, raw, pignoli, garlic, salt, and lemon zest tossed through and a little lemon, olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.