Leçons des choses: from sweet potato to gnocchi

An excerpt from Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik:

"A French school term that I have learned to love is leçons des choses, lessons from things. It refers to a whole field of study ... that traces civilization's progress from stuff to things. The wonderful posters in Deyrolle, which Martha and I love and have collected, were made for leçons des choses. They show the passage of coffee from the bean to the porcelain coffeepot, of wine from the vine and soil to the bottle, of sugar from the cane to the clafoutis. They always show the precise costume that the beans and grapes and stuff end up in: the château bottling, the painted coffeepot, the label on the jam jar. The Deyrolle posters simultaneously remind you that even the best things always have some stuff leaking out their edges -- a bit of the barnyard, a stain of soil -- and that even the worst stuff is really OK, because it can all be civilized into things" (p. 174).


I first tasted homemade gnocchi when M. prepared this recipe for one of our book club potluck dinners. As is often the case, I can't seem to recall the book we discussed, but the sweet potato gnocchi apparently made a lasting impression.

Source: Adapted from a recipe posted on Epicurious and originally published in the December 2005 Bon Appétit.

Casual Baker Substitutions: Fresh dill for nutmeg, classic pesto for the proposed browned butter and sage treatment, and simple finger indentations for the more time-consuming fork tine markings.