What is a dumpling exactly, is a dumpling the folded over circle of translucent dough filled with savory meats and spices, its edges pressed carefully together and uniformly patterned with the tines of a fork or folded just so like the pleats in a mid-length skirt, or perhaps they are the soup dumplings with the wrapper forming a small cup to be filled with hot and salty broth, then the top pinched and puckered shut and then they are steamed or pan fried and served in a bamboo tray by
hands that are practiced in the folding, hands that make those tiny pleats exactly the same each time, hands that know how much stuffing just from the weight of it and ball up the precise amount of minced pork and chives and garlic so that the delicate noodle-like wrapper doesn’t burst when cooked, or are
dumplings more like one solid mass, the German style, made from stale bread broken into one inch by one inch pieces, then mixed with eggs and milk until there is bowl of gooey mass that can be balled into softball sized wads of starchy plainness and served on an undecorated ceramic place with sour kraut and pork by
hands that are strong and world weary, and maybe even calloused from breaking apart bread so old most of it was eaten last Christmas and so all that was left was the heel, and too many stale heels in a basket of bread is enough to tire any hands so maybe these slices were broken with the handle of a knife, but there are also
dumplings served with chicken soup where perfect, airy puffs of Bisquick float like clouds above a simmering cauldron of a thick, plain looking stew that relies on quarter-sized slices of carrots and a generous helping of celery for color, but don’t be fooled: these are not biscuits because they do not have the right consistency, in fact, they have no consistency at all and they are like eating a slightly more dense spoonful of whipped cream and this dish is scooped carefully with a deep ladle and served in a bowl by
hands that are tentative, and maybe uncertain in the kitchen, hands that can confidently open a can of Campbell’s soup and mix the boxed flour product with water, then scoop the mixture up with one spoon and then with another spoon, scrape it into to misshapen plops that rest semi submerged in the soup, so that the hands don’t have to get too messy in the process, and the hands trust that the magic of the premixed ingredients and factory seasoned canned dinners will make a tasty and more or less visually appealing dish but the question remains, what exactly is a
About the Author
Lily Crooks is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Her essays and poetry can be found in recent issues of Under the Gum Tree and rock, paper, scissors. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found around the Twin Cities knitting, singing karaoke, or falling off of her bicycle.