December 10, 2018
Posted By: Jessica Geary-Cecotti
There she stood in her small Ohio farm kitchen... I can see her now, as she always was, wearing her special Christmas apron, hands dusted with flour and wrinkled from the ages and days of hard work, and that twinkle in her eye and easy smile, the cackle laugh as she leaned slightly backwards. She was salt of the earth and the epitome of clean, honest living. She ate carrots and celery along with cottage cheese everyday because she liked them, and she gardened even on the day she died. She wasn't a "health nut" – she just kept it real and simple and knew an honest day’s work. Born of strong German stock back when horses and buggies were still the only means of travel besides feet, her hardworking family built their own house out of clay bricks they made from the mud of the creek bank that ran by their house on the old homestead in northwest Ohio. They were farmers. They lived through the Great Depression. And believe me, nothing got wasted.
My Grandma Ruby was known for many things, and lucky for my family, home cooking was one of her specialties. There was nothing gourmet about her kitchen – she had no more than three feet of counter space and definitely no pan of hers cost more than $10. Yet the foods she made were far better than any five star schwanky restaurant. Every Christmas Day, we all knew the treat that awaited us. Underneath those shiny tin lids on her stove top were the delicacies legends are made of... her homemade noodles from the recipe passed down for who knows how long. She would slow cook a beef roast to go with it, then add the roast to the noodles as they cooked. The potatoes simmered until soft when she would mash them and leave a nice, soft spoonful of butter in their middle.
A week or so before Christmas Day, I could be found there in her kitchen with her and my mom, watching, learning, soaking it all in. First came the eggs. While some folks only use the yolk for their noodles, we use the whole egg. Why? As I said before…nothing gets wasted, and it gives the noodles some extra oomph. As Grandma would say, “One egg per person – for big eaters” (and we were big eaters – how could you not be in this kitchen?). With a fork, she would mix up the eggs, and then, without any measuring, in went the flour, mixing until combined and not sticky. There was no magic amount here – just until it formed a nice dough ball. Trust yourself to do it right. A smidgen of this and a pinch of that, she would tell me. Out went the dough onto her 75-year-old kitchen table, rolled to paper thinness using a rolling pin that was seasoned with grease from many piecrusts. The dough was then rolled up and sliced into shreds before being scattered around on paper grocery bags and left to dry for the day. The end product was a shriveled up looking noodle that expanded with whatever delectable broth it was cooked in.
She died five years ago at the age of 99.5 (that .5 mattered to her, and she let everyone know she was proud of it) picking berries in her strawberry patch while a warm cherry pie cooled on her counter. But she is forever alive. She lives on in our family and the things we eat. She is memorialized and celebrated through her recipes, so I share this one now since this is the season of giving. With roast beef and mashed potatoes, these noodles are the embodiment of everything Grandma represented and stood for – family, food and fun.
Her recipe, just as she told it to me, follows…
“Use 1 whole egg per person and mix with flour until dough is formed. Roll out on paper to desired thinness. Let dry for 15-20 minutes. Roll dough into a log, and slice into thin strips. Break strips apart and scatter over paper. Let dry in open air for most of the day. When ready, cook in boiling water with roast beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over mashed potatoes.”
They do freeze well, but I doubt you’ll have any leftovers.
Happy Holidays, from Grandma Ruby.
Amy Horner is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Counselor at The Cozy Nest in Bozeman where she supports moms, babies and older kids through all feeding stages. In real life, she is the mama of three wonderful children and the author of a new book about motherhood experiences called Memoirs of a Traveling Mama, available now on Amazon.