Image for the poem The Art of Mante’ (The long lost cousin of Tortellini)

The Art of Mante’ (The long lost cousin of Tortellini)

There are oodles of noodles in every culture with flavors and textures as unique as our skin and fingerprints with all shapes and sizes but the only one that warms my heart and soul is Mante’.        
I remember sitting in my grandmother’s small kitchen surrounded by my aunts and my mother watching my Nana knead the dough for which seemed like hours ’til it was supple, soft and smooth.  She would smack the dough on the floured board few times with her trembling hands and then place the sign of the cross murmuring something with her eyes closed, covering it with a cotton dishcloth to rest.      
My mother would start preparing the stuffing, mincing onion into ground lamb then sprinkling with 7 spices: a mix of black pepper, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika into the red meat, blending in the complexity of the spices into smooth paste.      
The aroma would fill the small room while everyone waited for the dough to rise, drinking coffee from small china cups, then inverting for fortune readings.  My aunt would start with a long pause staring in the cup calculating every angle and possibilities while we all waited in silence and suspense.  I always wondered where she had learned to predict so efficiently, turning the cup clockwise then counterclockwise, announcing some good news, a wedding, or tragedy to happen in 3 days or 3 months or 3 years she was never sure of the span of time but she would speak of a number 3 so confidently that I wished I could attend the university where such wonderful magical knowledge bestowed on impressionable minds.      
Nana would start rolling the dough and I'd watch it expand thin, thinner covering the whole table from edge to edge touching my fingers.  Tempting me with sweet smelling yeast,  I'd pinch a small piece, placing it in mouth to taste the rawness of the earth.     
She would catch me in the corner of her eye and smile, cutting the dough into small squares and we'd gather around the table again, methodically placing the stuffing in the dough and pinching the edges like little boats,  placing them around and around in a circle in a pan, as all things in life circling one another; planets and moons around the sun, and we gathering around Nana.      
The traditions continue passing on from trembling hands to younger eager hands.  Ladeling into bowls floating Mante with tomato broth, warming up hearts and souls.  Each adding their own unique touch to Nana’s recipe of love with honor and respect.    
Note: Photo taken by me.    
Food in the picture, also my own masterpiece.
Written by Vee (Rina)
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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