With my sleeves rolled up safely beyond the protective shield of my elbows, hair pulled up into a messy attempt at a chic bun, and my two-year-old daughter standing patiently at my side, her own wooden spoon in hand, I take a deep breath and dive my clean hands down into the bowl of ground meat, herbs and spices. Meatball making day has commenced.
The ancient art of meatball making is a topic with which I am fascinated and about which I am utterly enthused. So many vibrant food cultures around the world stake claim on their own version of the spherical wonder that is the meatball and my kitchen has played host to many of them, I’m proud to say. The process of crafting an excellent meatball is almost therapeutic for me; the mechanics of it always the same and only the ingredients shifting and changing depending on which culture’s version you’ve got in mind that day. Wringing the milk out of the fresh breadcrumbs and then subsequently adding them to the ground meat mixture is easily my favorite step when making my classic Italian meatball recipe. It is hands down the best hands-on kitchen experience I can think of, bringing out the kid in anyone who dares to dirty their hands in the mess. I make a North African meatball sometimes that is wonderfully warm and spicy and just exotic seeming enough to elevate an otherwise ordinary weeknight meal into something exciting – something worth blogging about, actually (note to self …). Then there’s the Swedish meatball and the Asian sweet and sour meatball (both of which are lovely in their own rights), the Middle Eastern kofta and the beloved Mexican albondigas (two of my personal favorites), and the German Königsbeger Klopse (never made it), the Japanese Tsukune (had to check my spelling on this one), and yes, even the Welsh faggot (which I’ve sampled in its native land and thoroughly enjoyed).
“You got this Mama! It’s meatball time!” I’ve been teaching Elle select encouraging and/or supportive phrases to employ at chosen times, like when she’s with me on a long run or, as was the case here, when I’m working on a particularly large cooking project. The words might be coming from a toddler who doesn’t totally get what she’s saying or why, but you’d be surprised at how effective it can be. Continue reading