Thing 16: Make Grandma’s noodles

My family makes noodles.

Really, really amazing noodles.

They are the reason I cried the first (and every consecutive) Thanksgiving after moving away. They are the smell of home. They are warm squishy feelings when the world is cold and abrasive.

The chicken noodles have been at every family gathering for generations. Each aunt has her own spin on them, and they are all delicious. As far as I’m concerned, they put green bean casserole out of business. I’m not even sure why they bother with a turkey. Ladled into a mashed potato crater, they are a complete meal, sure to leave you feeling fat and happy for hours after you wake up from your food coma.

I needed to learn how to make my great grandma’s chicken noodles. I needed my son to feel the warmth of slow digestion and love emanating from each hand cut noodle, to know that while I added a little bit of salt, he is mostly tasting his mama’s sweat and tears.

Thursday’s attempt was a massive failure. But look how cute I felt about beginning: I drew a heart in the flour!

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The “egg well in the middle of the flour” method was a no-go.

The dough quickly became too stiff and unworkable. I was determined to make the noodles just has my grandma would have done. But when my KitchenAid with the dough hook gleamed brighter and brighter on the countertop, I threw my hardened ball of blah in and the let the machine do its work. It struggled. I added another egg. I added more flour. I added more water. I added more flour. I let it rest. I couldn’t get my ingredients to a proportion that the dough could agree with. After a few hours, I happily threw the mess in the trash.

I quit relying on my Myers blood and my flawed intuition about how much “looks right.” I called my mom and went straight to the source: our family cookbook.

Friday’s attempt was glorious: the dough came together smooth and warm. It stretched under the pressure of my fists, and then under the rolling pin made by my great grandpa George.

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I cut each noodle how I like, careful to avoid the strained reach of curious little fingers.

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I thought of my great grandma, my great aunts, my mom cooking noodles for the first time trying to earn my dad’s approval (they are his side’s tradition after all), of my cousins watching these strong women work the dough into submission, then cut it with love. I remembered running around my aunts’ homes, and when the family outgrew them, the community center, with my cousins. I remembered eating noodles out of a Solo cup because the adults had already packed up the plates.

I grew up good.

I hadn’t realized how many memories were tied to this ball of flour until I rolled them all out myself. To my Myers kin, I haven’t seen most of you for years, but you’re in my heart and you’re in my blood and I love you.

When my broth came to a nice boil, I watched with wide eyed wonder my concoction of flour, eggs, and milk turn into rustic carb heaven.

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It was 94 degrees. But if you turn the AC down real low and focus on the football, you can sometimes convince yourself that Texas has an autumn.

Watching my husband and my son snarf brought such joy. I’m thrilled to continue this tradition even with a different last name. With any luck, there will be generations of Schaefers eating noodles and running wild, even after the grown ups have told them to quiet down.

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He approves.
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