Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Land Where Food Is Sacred

I'm not joking. Food, here in Italy, and, I believe, especially in the South, is indeed sacred.

Food has a direct link with the mothers of this Country, and we are known to be one of the population who live longer under the parents' roof. It is not by accident. We love Mamma's cuisine too much, we love the security of the family, but are often not ready to create a new family of our own.

Behind this, lie mostly economical reasons. Work does not come easy and often a full time job does not mean you can afford to rent your own place AND eat.

It is a weird Country indeed, extremely corrupt and in a deep, deep generational crisis.
However, it is also immensely beautiful and the food... Well, the food is awesome.

A few days back, we visited my auntie's home, she offered us coffee and placed this very simple sponge cake on the table. She's a very good cook herself, so after tasting the sponge I asked how you make it.

Easter Sponge Cake

She told me there is no need for a scale to make it. Fantastic, I thought.
You start by beating separately the yolk and the egg whites.
The whites must be beaten for a while, until they become nice and fluffy, as you would do to make meringue.
For each egg, she adds a spoon of regular white flour and a spoon of sugar.
She cooked it in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius until, on the top, a nice, light crust appears.

She told me, back in the days, for Easter, all the women would gather to make sponge. While the bread was cooking in the wood fired oven, each would be preparing the mixture for this. After removing the bread from the oven, which cooks at very high temperatures, they would put in the baking trays with the sponge mixture and let it slowly cook.

It was one of those events where women came together to cook. They would exchange news and gossip. There were no TVs... She also told me sugar was extremely expensive back then: to purchase 1 Kg of sugar, my grandparents had to sell 9 liters of cow's milk.

My mother, then, went to the polytunnel they build right behind the house. She came back with these:

In the picture above, courgettes flowers and rocket salad leaves, fresh from my Mother's vegetable garden.

The courgettes flowers are washed, quickly wet in beaten egg, then lightly dusted with flour and fried.

Needless to say, they are one of my favorites... This way, you can cook courgette and aubergine slices, too.

A variation of this recipe is to stuff the flowers with mozzarella. Yum!

I then spent a couple of days at my in-laws'. They are 60 Km away from my parents, they live on the coast, and they eat way different!

One of the things my mother-in-law cooked for us was Mozzarella in Carrozza, which can be translated in Mozzarella in a Carriage. Funny name :)

To make these, she uses toast bread, she removes the crust and places, in between two slices of it, mozzarella slices and cooked ham.

She will then bathe the bread in beaten egg, dust it with flour and fry it.

What you see above is the final result. Very very nice!

My mother-in-law also cooked something else I really like, Scapece Courgettes.

Scapece is a way of cooking vegetables, usually courgettes, which involves mint leaves.

These are thinly sliced, fried and then, once cool, dressed with vinegar, salt, a couple of garlic cloves and mint leaves.

Below, my Capricciosa Pizza, a take away from a local restaurant. Needless to say, it is cooked in a wood fired oven.

And this is what you can get for breakfast, if your barman likes you ;)

Come visit Italy, it's truly worth it.

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