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Gnocco after gnocco

Knocked on on July 10, 2022.

Gnocco after gnocco bubbled to the surface of the water. Little round globules of potato paste, squeezed down into pasta form, tumbled and spun around in the pan. Gentle streams of air bubbles rose from the bottom of the shiny steel vessel, captured each falling gnocco before it could escape, and tossed it back upward—only for it to fall again. The bubbles were relentless. Hundreds of them spun and rose and fell and rose and spun again. Soon my gnocchilicious meal would be ready. The suspense was killing me—as were the suspenders I had accidentally wrapped around my throat in a dressing accident this morning.

With my omnipepperonial days at a glorious end, I could eat other things. Like potato pasta. And potato juice. And even potatoes directly out of the soil. My pasta kept burbling softly.

“Gnocchi! Gnocchi! Gnock, gnock!” I chootled merrily as I watched them bubble and boil. They didn’t bubble and squeak alas, but—whereas I was disappointed—I wasn’t surprised. They were potato pasta, not mouse pasta.

Any moment, the round little lumps of potato would be ready to eat. I scanned my kitchen furtively, looking for the appropriate condiments. Grated cheese, check. My cheese grater was in the shop, but my horsehairbrush had worked after a fashion. Butter, check. And it was real butter squeezed directly from the cow out back. Sage—I didn’t have any sage, but sage advice a man had recently given me (“You’re a doofus and your mother dresses you funny!”) was good enough for me. And the pesto I made by grinding my own galumph tree nuts smelled exquisite—as long as it didn’t detonate at an inopportune moment.

“Gnocchi! Gnocchi! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” I chootled once again.

Completing the ensemble, I poured myself a tall glass of plain potato juice.

‘Gnock, gnock!’ ‘Who’s there?’ ‘Gnocchi!’ I giggled at my own joke—giggled like a twelve-year-old girl. The gnocchi were done; in one smooth, graceful motion, I turned off the gas and poured the pan directly onto the plate. Starchy broth sprayed everywhere but I would deal with it later. Starchy pasta bounced and bounded off the plate, slid across the table, and landed on the floor in all directions. That I would have to deal with now.

And deal with it I did. I dealt the hell out of it! Half an hour later, all 818 gnocchi were carefully dusted off and placed back on the plate. The lumpy pile resembled no less than a small lumpy mountain of potato starch lumps—if a mountain could be made out of pasta, which I had it on good authority it could. I eyed Mt. Potato hungrily. The gnocchi eyed me back. These potatoes, thoroughly reduced to skinless blobs of starch, had no eyes, but they eyed me anyway. That’s just what potatoes do… to me. Even eyeless… they eye me forever.

I put it of my mind. Then I poured all the condiments on, poured on a few more (mostly mustard and catsup), and began my merry noshing. An idea then struck: What if I could combine my potato pasta and potato juice into a delicious potato pasta juice?

Suffering from cyclic vomiting syndrome, I spent the remainder of the day rotating in place and retching voluminously. The remnants of my gnocchi sat sadly on the table. Uneaten. My unending emesis taught me new things about using horsehairbrushes to grate cheese, about confusing a particularly large female raccoon with a cow, and much about angular momentum and graceful Archimedean spirals.

I made an appointment with the local rug shampooer (“And use real poo this time—none of that sham poo!”) then returned to my fetal position on the living room floor. My gnocchi would no doubt land in the trash bin out back pretty soon. And then the raccoon would have them.

“Melor Famagal” was playing on the radio. Off in the distance, a dog disembarked. I lay cranching in front of my Hopeless Slack-Ass® recliner, moaning, groaning, and now bubbling and squeaking myself. Transfixed I was, watching and listening to the gnutes psychedele by slowly outside my window. I wanted to will myself to rise into the recliner but it was not to be. The eyeless gnocchi in my stomach danced. Hobgoblins and bugbears rilled and rippled across my lawn. The potato potation I ate (and drank) was some sure powerful stuff. In my mind, grinning, tumbling gnocchi floated by lazily, mocking and deriding me for ever considering eating them. Somewhere that raccoon was still lactating. Another acorn exploded in my gut. I spun.

A man once told me crows are intelligent. So I asked him why they ate squirrels squished in the road, rather than cook themselves a gourmet meal (such as gnocchi with raccoon butter and cheese). He had no answer. I then asked him if he knew any crows with PhDs, JDs, or even an EdD. He did not. So I laughed heartily and dismissed his crows-are-intelligent theory without further thought.

That was before I was embroiled in a six-week battle of wits with a neighborhood crow, which I ultimately lost. I have a lot more respect for crows now—PhDs or no.

The train my new Doberman would arrive on was late. I wanted to blame Amtrak—everyone loves blaming Amtrak—but then I realized I never ordered a new Doberman, so I put the Doberbox back out on my steps for Amazon to pick up the next day. The Doberman was in the box and it wasn’t happy. The Doberman on the train had still not arrived, even though it was barking and barking. I cranched back toward my Hopeless Slack-Ass® and waited fluffily for more gnutes to flit by my window. Like lizards riding butterflies, they were. Machine elves riding lizards riding butterflies. This time I had made it to the Slack-Ass® before collapsing colorfully: No small feat considering my own clownishly large feet were still in the kitchen. They stood in front of the stove cooking another batch of gnocchi.

On Pifsday I caught a panda bamboozling my bamboo. “Eats shoots and leaves,” I had learned, but one question remained: When would this bear shoot up the place and finally depart? It was only a matter of time.

You probably didn’t know I have any bamboo. I do. Bamboo I do have. I have whole flocks of it growing out back near the galumph trees and my Hapax legumina beanstalks. If the panda eats shoots and leaves, so can I. After 161 days of eating nothing but greasy rods of spiced meat, I had decided to eat something diametrically different.

I frowned. The panda still hadn’t left. It was just loitering—watching me. At least it wouldn’t peck my eyes out like that crow did.

The dog-in-a-box on my steps was still there on Dorfsday, too. The train hadn’t come by to pick it up. And the box was empty. This big black beast was becoming a real bête noire, I realized. My feet had run off with Chloë Moretz’s, abandoning me to a houseful of gnutes, a kitchen full of swollen, overcooked gnocchi, and a panda with a shotgun.

The bugbears—still ensconced in my lawn—were bugging me even more than the bear eating my shoots and leaves. The gnutes had taken up residence inside my windows, fixtures, and wainscoting—the former home of the gnomes who had vanished back into their underground warrens days ago. I tried turning all my lightbulbs inside out to rid the house of gnutes, but they came in too many colors (the bulbs, not the gnutes). So I gave up, squeezed myself some more potato juice, and resolved to retake my kitchen from the turgid, sticky chaos that had consumed it.

I crept back into the kitchen and surveyed the damage. Gnocchi everywhere. Everywhere. Wilfully deciding to not learn any lessons this week, I fixed myself another plate of gnocchi—with cheese, butter made from the local mouse population (“Bet you’ll bubble and squeak this time!”), and pesto made this time from real pine nuts, real garlic, and even real pests. The cheese wasn’t grated, but it was grateful I had decided to eat it. After that cheese-grating accident had reduced my own grater to molten slag, and after that horsehairbrush experiment had resulted in the biggest horsehairball retched up this side of of the Mississippi River, my cheese had been worried I would never touch another piece. But I had reassured it: Cheese will always have a special place in my heart. Then—after smashing it into a dozen pieces over my plate of gnocchi—I ate it. All. And then the gnocchi. All of them, too.

The cheese was grateful. I put on another pan of gnocchi.

My brain cranched as I realized that this was another one of those dreaded five-Sunday months. I hid under my kitchen table in despair while the gnocchi began to bubble and squeak.