Monday, November 15, 2010

Gnocchi or Cavatelli

I've often wondered why Mom always said she was making "cavadeellie" from leftover mashed potatoes when we were kids, since actually she was making gnocchi. Not that I knew it at the time. I don't think I ever heard the word "gnocchi" until some time in the 1970's or 1980's, when Mom, paradoxically, had started making actual cavatelli, with ricotta instead of potatoes.

Anyway, today I made gnocchi from some leftover mashed potatoes. They went down just like Mom's old cavadeelies, but not so elegantly. Mine were all shapes and sizes. It turns out to be hard to get them nice and uniform. Mom and Aunt Mary no doubt had those little mocking smiles on their faces if they were looking down this afternoon when I was struggling with that dough.

In other news: Sam and Don and I went down to Norfolk last weekend to take a tour of the Enterprise. It was good to see and walk around the old ship again, especially because, just by chance, the Ensign who served as guide for the group we joined is the Assistant First Lieutenant and thus happens to hold the same job title that I had back in the day (after I had spent a year as a Division Officer and more or less knew which end of the ship was the bow and which was the stern).

His job function is hugely different from mine since he got his commission via OCS after rising to First Class Bosun's Mate as an enlisted man, so he actually knows a lot about the management of the anchors, the mooring winches, the ship's boats and such, and he actually functions as the Ship's Chief Bosun. I was more or less the administrative assistant to the First Lieutenant, helping with paperwork that required an officer's signature and overseeing the department watch bill and duty assignments and such so the young department yeoman wouldn't be bullied too much by the petty officers. In port the job took me a couple of hours a day in the office, plus a couple of hour long walking around tours to check the various department spaces and go over stuff with the Division Officers.

Underway I was on a one in three rotation on the bridge; so the department management function was a duck in to the office and do a couple of hours of paperwork every couple of days sort of thing; and I did wandering tours of the department spaces on the way to and from bridge watches.

It was good to stand up there on the bridge and go back mentally to those heady days when the captain left the bridge and trusted me in charge out there, back when Enterprise was still "the largest warship in the history of the world," as he put it to me when he qualified me as Officer of the Deck. Heady days. The 1MC box next to the Captain's chair still connects to all those innumerable watch stations throughout the ship that could call in the middle of the night to report a problem or an emergency.

Mostly, even an actual emergency could wait on a decision for the few moments it took to call and wake up the captain in his sea cabin so you could explain the situation to him and get orders that you would merely pass along for action. But occasionally there would be an emergency that couldn't wait, one that needed orders right now; and you informed the captain after you had actions in train to put things right.

Then to, every so often there would be a merchant ship that was clearly in a privileged situation that suddenly and inexplicably changed course and put you in a situation where you had to maneuver right now to avoid a collision, and inform the captain only after you had given the necessary helm and/or engine orders, while the ship was already in process of making the unexpected change in course or speed. It was very gratifying when he merely gave you a "very well" over the phone after you had reported on what you had done, or when he came out in his bath robe, looked around and listened to what you were up to for a few minutes, or perhaps asked a couple of questions, and then quietly left the bridge to go back to his cabin.

One thing I noticed is that they've cluttered up the windows on the bridge with a whole lot of electronic equipment that was not there in 1971 and 1972. Back in those days we figured the course and speed for flight operations with a circular slide rule, and we kept track of nearby ships and did maneuvering board solutions for collision avoidance by hand on plotting sheets. They have special dedicated computers with touch screens for that stuff now.

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