How Gnocchi From Uruguay Landed in a Berlin Kitchen How Gnocchi From Uruguay Landed in a Berlin Kitchen

How Gnocchi From Uruguay Landed in a Berlin Kitchen

by Dieter H. Engler

March 29, 2013

In a small village in Uruguay, a young boy is sitting by the kitchen table, his hands covered with flour, a fork in one of them. His eyes concentrate on his grandmother's hands in front of him, rolling the dough into smooth logs. Everyone calls her Doña Carmen. She winks at him and cuts the logs into small pillow-shaped pieces. The boy carefully takes one in his hand and leans the fork on the table, just like grandma has shown him. Holding the piece of dough between his thumb and forefinger, he pushes it lightly but firmly against the fork, rolling it downwards. 
Doña Carmen laughs and claps her hands.
− Perfect, she exclaims, now you can make your own gnocchi!
Many years later, Dieter, once the young boy in a small village in Uruguay, is sitting with me by our kitchen table in Berlin, our hands covered with flour. I'm rolling the dough and cutting it into pieces. Dieter rolls them off a fork, shaping them into gnocchi. A tomato sauce is simmering on the stove, its sweet scent filling the room.
A family recipe has been passed on. Yet, two generations later, the general attitude towards food has changed dramatically. Not very long ago, sustainable householding was not so much an option as a necessity of everyday life. Now, in most parts of the Western society, the shelves are filled with an endless supply of produce from all parts of the world, much of which is mass produced and processed in factories and greenhouses. Food waste has taken enormous proportions. Healthy, good food is often presented as something exclusive, a far-fetched fantasy in glossy magazines.
The challenges can feel overwhelming. Where do we go from here? 
To make changes for the better, maybe we have to start from the heart of the matter. Perhaps we need to be reminded of those comforting moments together in the kitchen, and how much sharing a simple home-cooked meal can really mean. 
With our project What's Cooking in Berlin, we plan to offer creative cooking workshops, inspiring participants to cook delicious, healthy and affordable food, while making new connections and unexpected friends. We will share practical tips about smart grocery shopping, the art of reinventing leftovers, and how to find the fun and love in everyday cooking. From a wider perspective, it is about being more mindful of how we can approach food and cooking with more respect for our collective as well as our individual resources. 
The project will also include a blog, with tips, recipes, and "dinnerviews." Through our blog we are hoping to encourage people all over the planet to get together for their own creative cooking workshops. Perhaps, just like us, some of you will be sitting together by a table, in New York, Istanbul or Katmandu, flour on your hands, sharing your favorite family recipes. 
For more information about our project and about our crowdfunding campaign, please visit our Indiegogo page.
Images courtesy of Dieter H. Engler

This post is part of the GOOD community's50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Learn to Cook a Dish With a Story. Follow along and join the conversation and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

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How Gnocchi From Uruguay Landed in a Berlin Kitchen