The impenetrably thick mist was implacably bearing down on the Venetian plain like a giant’s foot. All the impoverished peasants toiling hard for the absentee landlords rushed to their huts. An elderly couple that usually lamented their miserable life had an unusual treat that night. The man brought two potatoes from the field and his wife prepared dumplings. In the sturdy cast iron cooking pot over the small fire they cooked them for a few minutes. Once they popped up to the water’s surface, they picked them up to serve on plates.

The couple smiled at each other and humbly sat on the table lit with a skinny candle. The wife had divided the dish in two equal portions of five dumplings for each one. They put a days’ old piece of rye bread and some leftover Christmas red wine on the table; it was December 29, a few days after the only festivity they could afford to celebrate. At the precise moment when they were about to take a bite, they heard a knock on the door. Initially fearful that it could be a thief or something worse, they were totally paralyzed. There was a second round of knocking, harder than the first one. The old man got up.

When he opened the door, a sudden rush of freezing blizzard hit his face, blinding him. Once he recovered, he saw a tall bearded man, covered in rags but holding a big sword. -“My whole party drowned in a surging river,” he said.”Can I come in to get warm?” The old man spontaneously extended his hand and led the stranger inside, by the fire. The devout wife quickly re-arranged the meal and put six dumplings on a third plate. They sat down in total silence to share a meager meal with some energizing drink.

Once they finished the meal, the stranger asked to lay down by the fire. The homemaker set an old rug and pillow to make his sleep more comforting. When he took off the cloak to use it as a blanket, he briefly exposed a big red cross on top of his mesh metallic dress. With the ingrained submissiveness of the serfs for authority , they cast their eyes down. The old man and his wife huddled in the opposite corner of the room and fell asleep.

At dawn, the old man got up to start his workday and noticed that the stranger was gone. Relieved that the stranger could not harm them, they carried on with their tough duties. A few days later the old man saw a posse of chevaliers in full regalia and flying colors. When the group approached the peasant, one of them came forth and dismounted. With a clean shaven face and luxurious garments, the stunned peasant did not recognize him. -“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I’m the one you gave refuge to that stormy winter night.”

The seigneur that owned all the land as far as the eye could see, was indebted to him. Returning form a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his party was decimated and he got lost. Only the generous intervention of the peasant couple had barely saved his life that day. As a sign of gratitude, he released them from their indenture and gave them a plot. The old couple henceforth prospered and could finally help their children.

The significance of that folk tale has been transmitted to generations of Italians in the form of a tradition that does not go away: on the day 29 we eat potato gnocchi for luck. Our mothers and grandmothers put a coin under our plates and serve us that treat. In turn we relay the same tradition to our children, as we did last Sunday at our home. Being Italian, like being Hindu, implies sharing a great culture and not just a nationhood; our allegiance is not tied to a geographical area but to a communal sense of identity. Our family members had a limited command of the language, but we all breathed “Italian.” Safeguarding our heritage, we know where we came from and where we are going.

The featured image shows our original fusion dish that we had presumptuously labeled as Ottoman style-potato gnocchi because it mixes pasta, vegetables, figs and species; the latter included the Oregano, Turmeric and Moringa, which we will discuss in Wellness. We believe that the so-called traditional Italian cooking sorely needs a make-over to add veggies and fruits, avoiding the dire excess of acidic preparations, cream and cheese. There is nothing “sacred” about splurging on tomato sauce that provokes gastric acidity or milk products that raise your cholesterol level to the stratosphere. Not untouchable.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

4 thoughts on “The Italian tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th of each month

  1. I think Italians could close an eye on veggies but no ways for the fruits! It is just like when we see pineapple on pizza! It is blasphemy! 😂 In Rome the tradition is to eat Gnocchi every Thursday and in fact most of the restaurants managed by locals respect it! I love gnocchi, there are many varieties and you can prepare them in many different ways but please just keep the fruit for the dessert😉😂

    1. Good morning and thank you for taking the time to read my posting and writing a commentary, dear Flavia. However, I must honestly tell you that I was a little bit disappointed with it. Let me tell you why:
      1 – Being a cultured Italian, I expected a little bit more courtesy from you, like greeting me warmly, at least with a “hey” instead of just plunging into the matter like the uncultured Americans do all the time.
      2 – Being a woman, I would have thought that you could be more attentive to the great job our mothers and grandmothers did by painstakingly transmitting the best of Italian traditions to their descendants. Not to mention the essence of that blog, which was not the dish of gnocchi, was disrespectful to our Mamma and Nonna.
      3 – What do you mean by the “Italians”? perhaps you might be one of those residents of the peninsula that dismiss those that share the same culture and passport? Being Italian is more than belonging to a nation, like Hindus. It is to basically share some fundamental civic and cultural values that have withstood the test of times. A much inclusive, rich concept that does not summarily discriminate against the millions of “other Italians” that descend from the greatest modern exodus of poor people that nonetheless took great prided in their “passaporto rosso” The Italian state recognized them by granting the “jus sanguinis” right to their descendants, including my dear mother Gladys. Grazie Mamma!
      4 – I have to confess that none of my writings was ever geared to be read, and let alone appreciated, by the majority of residents of the peninsula, except for a learned minority like yourself, because not only they are basically bereft of the modern communication techniques like Internet usage (they are heavy users of the telefonino though) but they conspicuously do not handle foreign languages like English, the lingua franca of the inter-connected world. Moreover, living in a society that was never a meritocracy and has been in a profound recession for several years, they could hardly afford any of my books, unlike Americans, Indians, Chinese and other prosperous societies. Let them stay in their archaic bubble.
      My dearest Favia, I will continue to happily design, prepare and promote my fusion Italian dishes. as well as healthy versions of French cooking overloaded with cream and butter, in earnest for my loyal readers. I solemnly promise to send you a signed copy of my future book.
      E vabbuo!
      Un baccione. Arrivederci.

      1. Hi Mario, I am sorry for my lack of formality! I didn’t think not even for one second that it would have upset you.
        I didn’t appreciated your comment as well to tell you the truth. Why am I supposed to be lectured for being a woman and an Italian with limited visions? Come to Italy, propose to put fruit on a dish of Gnocchi and you will see the reactions! I dare to say that they will be fairly similar to the ones of the French, deprived of butter and crème freche ! I know them fairly good. I used to live there for more than 5 years but of course I can talk better about my culture. There is nothing bad trying to personalizing a recipe but you cannot expect approval just like if you painted the Gioconda! Even the best chefs in the world have been criticized. Today I hace been served a Salad with a slice of ananas. It would have shocked me in Italy, not here. I just left it aside and that’s it. No drama needed! Do you know the say “when in Rome do as the Romans do”? I apply it wherever I go to and this is why I never it Italian dishes when I am abroad. I like to taste the local dishes and products, it is a way of traveling but, trust me, there are amendments in some dishes that result just unacceptable for the locals, despite their nationalities. French “hates” us because we fill croissant with any sort of creme, marmelade, etc. We hate them as well because they have no idea on how to cook carbonara. The world is full of people who appreciate the French version with crème frèche, mushrooms and persil but I dare you to find how many Italians will appreciate that version! ☺️

      2. Dear Flavia: good morning and thank you very much for your commentary. As you see, this is not a formality but just mere courtesy towards a fellow blogger that, sadly, is hard to find nowadays. Absolutely I was not trying to lecture you but to convey in a clear, comprehensive way my disappointment with your commentary. Would you have rather preferred a hypocritical, lazy and useless “like” as most people do? Honesty is always the best way to go in friendships, in good and bad times. Please forgive me if I follow the teachings of the “old-fashioned Italians” that have blissfully raised me.
        “Al pan, pan, y al vino, vino”
        Of course you are entitled to your opinion about my Fusion Italian dish and I will respect it. Of course I am entitled to my opinion about your view and I’ll ignore it.
        Let’s agree to disagree and move on, please. Have a wonderful journey in Uruguay and Argentina, As always, I am ready to answer any questions you might have. Un baccione. Arrivederci.

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