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All We Had

December 4, 2013 | by


Photo: Luigi Anzivino.

My boyfriend Keith does not like my dumplings. He thinks they’re plain-tasting. I stir the sticky dough. He says that even their color is unappetizing. Like paste, he tells me, like something thick from inside an engine.

“Like papier-mâché, almost,” he says, and I look at him and blink.

Keith and I have been standing in my cramped kitchen for over an hour now, scraping spoons against spoons, and it’s late. On the table behind us, there’s a bowl of French-cut green beans and a whole chicken, getting cold. I take a pinch of flour and release it over the bowl.

“Like this,” I say, but still the consistency won’t come together in the way I know it can. I add another pinch, and then another, and then another.

The recipe for the dish is my grandmother’s, and it is simple: whisk together flour and egg, whisk until the dough sticks to the spoon and then, at last, snaps back against the bowl. It’s all about consistency, something you can’t put your finger on, something you just have to know. That is why there is no written recipe for this dish, this congealed mess of white that gets boiled in bits and drenched in sour cream and salt and pepper. There is no written recipe because how do you put your finger on dumpling elasticity?

“So you just know?” Keith asks. He dips his finger into the simmering stock beside us, pulling it to his lips.

“I just know,” I say. Read More »