Friday, November 6, 2009

Thoughts and Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach

My son attends a good school. No, this not the too-perfect for words Montessori charter school we failed to win the lottery drawing for, but it is ranked as one of the best schools in Baltimore city. And still a city school; so, his class has a lot of diversity. Kids from all kinds of homes and nationalities, which is really great, but has its own challenges.

I volunteer every other week to go in a help at lunch time. I open plastic zipper bags and all sorts of wrappings that the kids struggle with, escort them to the bathroom and the lunch line. All the things that the teacher just doesn't have enough hands for. I love seeing into my son's world for just 30 minutes every other Tuesday; but it breaks my heart to see into some of the other kids' lives. Some kids come from good homes like ours, but some really don't. There is one little boy in particular that gets my throat tight and my eyes primed for tears of anger and sadness when I think about him.

He comes to school with a tupperware of (what I assume) he as packed for himself: potato chips, cookies dumped out from the package and other high-fructose nightmares. That is it. And the school sees this everyday, takes it away and gives him a free hot lunch, as I would hope they would. But the real tragedy is not the lunch he packs, but his refusal to eat the cafeteria food the school provides for him. Sure, the cafeteria food is no nutritional dream, but it is food: protein, fruit and some carbohydrates. He wastes the entire thing. He doesn't touch it. He has been failed so badly that he won't touch the food that he is offered. I believe he doesn't know how to eat.

What kind of parent starves their child of nutrition to the extent that they won't even touch a grilled cheese sandwich, chocolate milk and applesauce (which was the last meal I watched him refuse). I see the signs of malnutrion; sullen, irritable and tired. I see his parents picking him up from school, but I can't even talk to them- I don't know how. I would garble my words with anger, frustration and tears and they don't even know me. I figure it can't come from me-

I hope it come from the worried teachers, and I think it has but it hasn't made a difference. I hope somehow someone does. But until then I pray for him, and thank the Lord for the knowledge I have. I know how to feed my family. I have testimony of the goodness of the Lord, the word of wisdom and the power to make really tasty healthy stuff for our turn for snack time that I would like to think he is hungry enough to eat at least a little.

And now shifting gears... I give you a go-to meal. This is one of my favorite fast dinners. It is quick and simple and has great flavor. You might even have the ingredients hiding in your fridge right now.

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach
Gourmet, December 2007

  • 1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach (3 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound dried or fresh packed gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Simmer peas with cream, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add spinach and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.

Add gnocchi to sauce with cheese and some of reserved cooking water and stir to coat. Thin with additional cooking water if necessary.

Now go and cook and share your thoughts, I would really appreciate it.


  1. sooo sad! When I taught I would make all of the kids eat a bite of a fruit or usually a vegetable before I left the cafeteria. It became a joke, but they would always do it. I have always been amazed at how much is thrown out and not even touched in the cafeteria. sad.

    and for the record, I have never had gnocchi in my life! who am i??? I have always wondered about it. I grew up around mexican food though in California. IT was American or mexican food.... always.

    I would love to try this.

  2. Schools need more good teachers who know how to affect change, yet it is so frustrating and so true "that no success can compensate for failure in the home."

    And I hope you do try the gnocchi I made it tonight and fell in love all over again. This recipe is 15-20 minutes total time. So doable.


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