In Romans, I found a recipe for ravioles in a booklet promoting Dauphinais gastronomy.
In short, buy yourself a pack of ravioles at the supermarket and follow the indications on the back.
I replace the booklet and go to the street to ask passers how to stuff a raviole.
The question makes people laugh, but it’s a hard one to answer
If all Romanais stand for their raviole, sometime admitting they eat it twice a week, stuffing it seems to be too perilous an enterprise to risk it without their grandmother around. Out of 62 intervewed, no-one will claim knowing how: « Not enough time », « too constraining », « You can’t imagine the work it is », « My grandma used to know how, my mother didn’t and I never learnt ». « You should ask old people, they have time for that ». « I never though of it » and even « I don’t care ».
Those answers are generally served with a nice side of « those in markets are pretty good anyways ». Everybody seems to know the recipe from the booklet.
Is this the end of a tradition?
For all we know, ravioles never were a domestic specialty, it was mainly the work of door to door crafters. Their trade progressively evolved with the settling of those people called “mothers” and the mechanization of production.
The Art of raviole is to make do with it
Everybody’s got their own way: just raw, bathing in butter, fried on a salad, swimming in a soup or snuck up in sauce… Not forgetting the star, cuddled nice and warm in a gratin. “richer” “more generous”, “more presentable”, “more fun”.
Nevertheless, Romans may plebiscite their raviole, many of them admit “not finding the true taste of yesteryears”. I will finally get a « you make me want to stuff a raviole, I’ll ask someone in my family if they can help ».
I am advised to ask in restaurants “professionals know.”
Every venue in Romans sur Isère offers raviole on the menu ; fancy restaurants and street kebabs alongside. Let enter in the main square Dinner, a local institution, everybody vouches for it.
The welcome is spontaneous. The owner makes me sit with a coffee and, openly explains they don’t fix ravioles themselves: “Of course not! No one does. It’s not rentable. Can you imagine the time it takes? Not mentioning social taxes… » And again, “Those in the markets are pretty good anyways. We use HushHushNoBrandNames, they are the best. » Same in the other shops of Romans.
Fine! Most restaurants buy their fresh pasta from a supplier. Yet in Romans, Ravioles are carried to the row of local treats. It’s embarrassing. A privileged space is saved for it on the menus, advertised in sauces, gratins, soups, salads, stuffed with the most inventive garnish.
It is becoming common in France. Drastic norms, the high cost of the workforce, customers more worried about the bill than the content of their plate… All this motivates cooks to “work” with the very same industrial products their clients find at the supermarket. When you think some of them pay the check with money they honestly earned.
Strangely, quality and the origin of food is a big concern for people in France
The food industry’s bias is regularly denounced on TV. We tend to link the spreading of cancers and allergies. Alternative regimes surf on the crave to a healthier lifestyle. DIY and short circuits slowly became one of the last reliable resources.
So? Why do we keep on grantin with an “it was very good thank you”, the waiter who, very professionally, worried about how the dinner went. We should be more exigent, boycott restaurants that just reheat precooked food, favor more courageous cooks, keep more money for that, or start to live more modestly.
Lastly, I will meet with a raviole resistant
People told me about him as a tale tale. « Up there in the mountain, is a restaurant where they prepare ravioles themselves ». My blood made one round only.
If Hervé deplores Romanais cooks simplism, he admits fixing ravioles from scratch is not rentable. « What with the cost of labour, ingredients and hygiene? » I make 2 boards in three hour time, that for about 20 helpings. He prefers to remain discreet and not advertise his ravioles. It is a favor, a special rendezvous he gives to his customers of nearby villagers. « Come back for lunch on Sunday. I don’t make on week days.
Amused, proud, he talks with realism about the loss of the know how. He talks with a sad lucidity about the fact that ravioles will not extinguish, describing a well oiled industrial production. But he does not expect a serious relief from new crafters. Sometimes, some “have fun trying” but without real conviction to sustain the tradition.
He, will never cook industrial ravioles.
« They might be good, but it is no raviole, they use different products. I don’t know what they put in it, but it’s not the real thing.”. Don’t expect Hervé to cover his raviole with sauce! « I’m not gonna put my raviole in a gratin. Out of a question! » A dear friend insisted so he caved in but… « It really gave me the sweats. ».
Don’t let him mesmerise you with his aficionados manners. He will finally give me his little recipe for a ravioli gratin. And he sure has his ways with the raviole. He will also put me on Marie-Louise’s track. Another myth I’ve been tracking for days. « She lives there, down in her hole ».
Driving down towards Romans, exiting a curse, the road dives in a light less valley