This week on The Delicious Story, we transition from terms such as “cranial therapy” and “myofascial techniques” to later talk about a charming, memorable meal involving pasta. Mary Beth Wims admits that her journey to becoming a physical therapist took twists and turns (much like our conversation), and yet it all worked out beautifully in the end.
As our conversation unfolds, Mary Beth shares many highlights of her life adventure to date, which you’ll likely marvel at as I did while you listen to her story. Mary Beth’s experience in South Korea is particularly notable—you’ll see why in this Delicious Story interview.
In short time, Mary Beth and I came to talk about food and the glories of several delightful stories in Italy where Mary Beth worked with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). This program offers volunteers an opportunity to live abroad where they work on an organic family farm in exchange for room and board. Mary Beth considered her experience exceptional and relates a favorite memorable meal from the experience.
A TANGENT ON PASTA
It’s at this point that I ponder aloud the myriad of shapes and sizes of pasta. Where did they come from, and what do their shapes mean? Italy can’t claim the invention of pasta since it was the Chinese who first made noodles, but they did take it to a new level creating an extensive variety of pasta with more ingredients, manifestations and names.
My personal favorite is tortellini which was originally inspired by the naval of someone named Lucrezia Borgia. The name and connection represent what seems central to Italian cuisine and pasta in particular—the visceral connection of shape and design to the pleasure of eating. I learned about tortellini and other delicious anecdotes about pasta over at NPR in a piece featuring the cookbook “The Geometry of Pasta” by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand.
Pasta is a food that inspires many whims. I have been known to stand in front of the many noodles in the grocery aisle and ponder the perfect recipe to sample the multiple options. Do those shapes change the flavor? What is the nuance in the bite of a thick pasta versus a thin one? Perhaps sampling all pastas would yield answers.
What it boils down to is that the shapes each match the unique imagination of culinary designers with beginnings in flour, egg, water and oil turned into three-dimensional realities. Those shells, bow ties, tubes, and curlicues of noodles also influence the sauces that accompany them in dishes. Thicker ones work well with thicker sauces while the fine and thin noodles are best for light sauces. But even alone they are works of art as seen through the dozen pictured over at Plated.
Which brings me back to Mary Beth and the gnocchi recipe she shares this week on The Delicious Story. She explains this recipe is a variation of the gnocchi traditionally made with potato that she ate in Italy. Per Beth, “I've not been successful in making gnocchi that way. They always turn out like wet mashed potatoes. Therefore, I'm sharing a cheat recipe. It would probably alarm actual Italians because it's not real gnocchi, but it's a heck of a lot easier to make. I thought it might be a fun thing to share with your listeners!”
1 lb fresh ricotta
2 egg yolks
3/4 c flour
1/2 c grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. salt (recipe calls for 1 tsp but that's too salty for my taste)
1/2 tsp. pepper
Combine ingredients to make the dough. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll out into 3/4" rope, adding flour as needed to minimize sticking. Slice into 1" pieces.
Drop into boiling water. Remove gnocchi as they begin to float - this will take just a couple minutes if you've got a good rolling boil going. Drain and serve as you please (parmesan cheese sprinkled over top, pesto, etc.)
Mary Beth was fortunate to enjoy authentic gnocchi in the perfect setting. Listen in, and you can live the experience vicariously. Here is a step-by-step version with beautiful photos by Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum for those with the culinary gumption to try it.
THE ROOT OF ALL PAIN INFLAMMATION
Perhaps only at The Delicious Story can we travel from pasta and a memorable romantic meal onward to foods that cause inflammation. Do I sound flip in saying this? I don’t mean to be because inflammation is a bugger when people are dealing with pain. Most often wherever there is pain inflammation is right there. Mary Beth explains that her work with clients can include a discussion of the connection between diet and inflammation, and when it seems right, she’ll connect patients with a nutritionist to explore ideas.
A quick review of the topic on the internet yields a nonscientific result, but the consensus seems pretty clear that the Mediterranean diet wins points for possibly aiding in the reduction of inflammation. Here is a concise article with food lists over at Harvard Health. With that finding, I feel we’ve come full circle connecting Mary Beth’s stories in today’s show. She is a healer, traveler, and occasional carb and admitted dark chocolate enthusiast who loves the connections she has made with people many of which have taken place around the table.