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How Eating Italian Gnocchi Became a Monthly Tradition in Latin America

Written by Laura Schneider · Translated by Laura Schneider On 4 February 2014 @ 16:03 pm | 1 Comment

In Argentina, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Feature, Food, Latin America, Paraguay, Spanish, Uruguay, Weblog

Ñoquis. Foto de simenon en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) [1]

Gnocchi. Image by Simenon on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, eating gnocchi [2] on the 29th of every month is a popular tradition. No one knows for sure where or how this custom came about, but many bloggers have dedicated posts to the culinary habit and published recipes explaining how to make gnocchi.

The blog Sección del por qué [3] went back to the 8th century [4]

La tradición de servir ñoquis los dias 29 nace de una leyenda que se remonta al siglo VIII. Vivía entonces en Nicosia (Asia Mayor) un joven médico llamado Pantaleón, quien, tras convertirse al cristianismo, peregrina por el norte de Italia. Allí practicó milagrosas curaciones por las que fue canonizado. Cierta ocasión en que pedía pan a unos campesinos , estos lo invitaron a compartir su pobre mesa. Agradecido, les anuncia un año de pesca y cosechas excelentes. La profecía se cumplía y otros muchos milagros. San Pantaleón fue consagrado -a la par de San Marcos- patrono de Venecia. Aquel episodio ocurría un 29, por tal razón se recuerda ese día con una comida sencilla representada por los ñoquis. El ritual que lo acompaña de poner dinero bajo el plato simboliza el deseo de nuevas dádivas.

The tradition of serving gnocchi on the 29th of each month comes from a legend dating back to the 8th century. Back then, in Nicosia (Greater Asia) a young doctor named Pantaleon, who went on a pilgrimage through northern Italy after converting to Christianity. There, he performed miraculous healings for which he was canonized. Once, when he asked peasants for bread, they invited him to share their humble table. Grateful, Pantaleon declared they would have a year of excellent harvest and lots of fishing. The prophecy was fulfilled and many other miracles. Saint Pantaleon was consecrated – along with Saint Marcos – as the patron of Venice. That episode occurred on a 29th, therefore that day is remembered with simple food such as gnocchi. The accompanying ritual of putting money under the plate symbolizes the desire for new gifts.

Carambolatango [5] offered her favorite story: 

Durante la Guerra de Europa, en Italia, escaseaban los alimentos entonces. El gobierno repartía bonos que eran cambiados por comida en los expendios. Las familias más numerosas se veían en serias dificultades para alimentarse y llegar a fin de mes. Nace la solidaridad entre  las personas y los vecinos invitaban a comer  noquis, (que era siempre considerada comida para los pobres) a las familias más grandes. Debajo de cada plato les ponían un bono y este regalo permitía que estos grupos pudieran cambiarlos por comida y llegar a fin de mes - 

In Italy, during the war in Europe, food was scarce. The government would give out bonds to exchange for food in the market. Larger families had serious difficulties getting food and making it to the end of the month. Solidarity was born among people and neighbors invited larger families to eat gnocchi (which was always considered food for the poor). Under each plate, people would put a bond and this gift allowed these families to exchange the bond for food and to make it to the end of the month. 

Alejandra Moglia from the blog Chocolate y Frambuesa [6] added even more history for gnocchi:

Hay otra historia que cuenta que hacia 1690, en un pueblo de Piamonte, se perdió la cosecha de trigo. Si bien la papa sólo la usaban para alimentar a los animales, era tan grande la miseria que la cocinaron, la mezclaron con harina y dieron origen a los ñoquis.

There is another story going back to year 1690 in a small town from Piamonte, where the wheat crop had been spoiled. Even though potatoes were used to feed the animals, misery was so rampant that [potatoes] were cooked for eating and mixed with flour, and that is how gnocchi originated. 

Nuria Eme from Cuaderno de recetas [7] published a recipe and added [8]:  

[...] se suelen comer los días 29 de cada mes, y por lo visto el origen  (de esta versión, pues hay varias)  es, que por ser uno de los últimos días del mes, las personas que tenían pocos recursos y cobraban a primero de mes, tenían que ingeniárselas para comer con alimentos hechos con materia prima barata. Y claro, ya sabemos que la papa y la harina, no son excesivamente caros. Y aunque la tradición es antigua, creo que por desgracia, es extrapolable en el tiempo, y totalmente actual con las circunstancias que nos ha tocado vivir.

[...] gnocchi is usually a meal for the 29th of each month, and so it seems that its origin (at least this version, there are many others) is because it is the end of the month and people have less resources and get paid at the beginning of the next month. So they have to be creative to make it to the end of the month by using less expensive ingredients. Potatoes and flour are not expensive. Even though the tradition is very old, it can be extrapolated over time and fit in perfectly with the circumstances in which we are living now.

Claudia Calizaya [9] showed in a video how she prepares them:

But this tradition goes beyond meals. In Argentina, “gnocchi” is a nickname for public employees [10] and those who do not go to work but still appear every 29th [11] to get their paycheck.  

Legend or tradition, this custom continues to stand the test of time in the southern hemisphere. If you do not know how to make them yet, take a look at another recipe from the blog From Argentina With Love [12][en].


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/04/how-italian-gnocchi-became-a-monthly-mealtime-tradition-in-latin-america/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/57358582@N00/4315770171/in/photolist-7zns7x-BBdiZ-cL3YRN-c7Epps-c7Epmb-c7Epx3-9BrJAA-ez9GLL-c7EpgY-8FBZTG-c7Epsy-7bHwVr-7bMmjm-7bHy1v-7bMkry-7bMmA1-7bMmSm-7bMkJu-dVWTMd-7JuTr3-7XTc8B-bkoF83-7Xx2fC-bjTzkj-4dzVVX-bosoPY-dwKx72-akqMgP-bosoho-bBniBK-dWXrx9-7pGrg8-jF6pC8-7pGrwZ-bosoAj-akqMgX-5penaM-bCGiE3-bosnTm-ae2XFC-7VdBvw-adZ6mB-ae2Taq-adZ56n-7Xx1Zh-ae2Uas-ae2WEs-ae2VHJ-7Xx2uj-4EbZ8F-adZ4fK

[2] gnocchi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnocchi

[3] Sección del por qué: http://secciondelporque.blogspot.com.ar/

[4] back to the 8th century: http://secciondelporque.blogspot.com.ar/2009/05/por-que-se-comen-noquis-los-29.html

[5] Carambolatango: http://carambolatango.com/historia-de-los-noquis/

[6] Chocolate y Frambuesa: http://chocolateyframbuesa.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/los-29-noquis/

[7] Cuaderno de recetas: http://elcuadernoderecetas.blogspot.com.ar

[8] added: http://elcuadernoderecetas.blogspot.com.ar/2013/04/noquis-del-29-receta-b-b-s-s.html

[9] Claudia Calizaya: http://www.youtube.com/user/CCClauuu?feature=watch

[10] public employees: http://nataliapenchas.com/2013/07/29/noquis-de-29/

[11] do not go to work but still appear every 29th: http://neolunfardo.blogspot.com.ar/2010/03/n_26.html

[12] From Argentina With Love : http://fromargentinawithlove.typepad.com/from_argentina_with_love/2008/02/national-oquis.html

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