Bonding over the noodles

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Always go for the marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes or the homemade cranberry sauce? Well, in our family, the kids all go for the noodles. Homemade noodles, that is.

One youngster, when reminded it was about time to start traveling for the big meal, said excitedly “Is that the place with the noodles?!”

Not, “Is that the place where all the cousins will be running around?” or “Is that the place where we have more dessert than dinner?”

Nope. Noodles.

So I thought to myself, I’d better learn how to make those. The women who made them while I was growing up are almost all watching from above now. Seems simple enough. Flour, eggs, rolling pin and a knife, right?

Ha.

I forgot the time and patience.

You’ve got to roll it out and let it dry; then flip it over and let it dry some more. This is no insta-dish.

And as I almost let that part scare me away from making the noodles, I realized — that’s kind of the point. No one is squeaking with excitement about traveling over the river and through the woods to eat noodles that took five minutes.

In this day and age, there is good reason that kind of food preparation happens on holidays and other special occasions, but not much more. I know in my case it would mean planning two weeks in advance and skipping church to have them made in time for just a Sunday dinner. (And served in a clean house …)

Was it that way for Gran, too, and I just didn’t realize? Maybe once in a while, but most of the time, I don’t think so.

Our world has changed in so many ways — and changed quickly. Fear of making noodles is the least of our worries because of those changes.

West Virginia ranks 11th in the U.S. for suicides. The suicide rate has increased more than 37 percent in the past two decades. Among the possible reasons? “Lack of community, resources, and familiarity in rural areas,” plays a big part, according to Rosemary Ketchum, Associate Director of Marian House Drop-In Center in the Northern Panhandle. People are “isolated from their families, isolated from social situations,” she said. That is not simply a matter of working long hours; it is also a cultural shift. We sit inside, in front of personal screens. We do not interact.

The Mountain State has the highest number of drug overdose deaths in the country. Those numbers are going up, too.

Experts point to changes in social and community behavior on that front as well.

Homemade noodles are a tiny example of the things so many of us think about fondly, in a remember-when-we-used-to context. We used to get together. We used to prioritize family, friends, neighbors — looking out for each other … even if in West Virginia the two code phrases for “I love you” or at least “I care about you” are “Did you eat yet?” when folks arrive and “Watch out for deer” when they leave.

I think people miss those things so sorely — THOSE are the things their hearts yearn for when they talk now about making this country great again. Maybe I’m wrong.

To me it seems as though a lot of people mean “Make this country the kind of place where I can feel like I did slurping homemade noodles at my grandma’s Sunday table, again.”

That kind of feeling has nothing to do with all the political triggers and scapegoats we use to make us nastier to each other, rather than bringing us together. That’s up to each of us.

So don’t be scared to make the noodles, folks. Or whatever food you think will bring people to your table. Just remember, most of that kind of cooking takes two hands — you’re going to have to put the phone or tablet down. And you’re probably going to make too much. Let someone else know you care about them — you’re looking out for them — when you share it.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

COMMENTS