For a long time, one of my favourite food blogs has been Keep Calm and Fanny On!, in which we are introduced the to the wonderful 1970s world of the British TV cook, Fanny Cradock. For those of you that don’t know her, Fanny was like a terrifying caricature of Julia Child, who corralled the British public to share her affection for all things French, France being ‘the acknowledged Centre of the Gastronomic World’ (Cradock 1973: 6). In fact, this was so true that ‘In our almost endless travels we have again and again come upon some strange dish whose name is totally unfamiliar to us, only to discover that it is a French dish … under another name.’ (Cradock 1973: 6).
White ragù—Italian meat sauce without tomatoes—is one of my all time favourite dishes. I learnt it as a teenager from my Italian step-grandmother in her kitchen in Venice. She was noted for her ragù and people were forever asking her how she made it but, of course, she wouldn’t tell. But one summer morning while I was having breakfast, she called me over to the kitchen stove and allowed me to watch her make it. And I discovered the three secrets behind the taste.
In Renaissance Venice, the period from 26 December until Ash Wednesday was one of chaos. The city was full of parties, festivals, but also of general misrule and often violence—tolerated by the authorities as a way for society to let off steam and a way to ensure good order for the rest of the year. People would wander the streets wearing masks to ensure anonymity as they played tricks on each other, or worse. Immediately after this period was Lent when meat and other so-called luxury food items would be forbidden. In Latin, to take away meat is carnem levare, so this festival became known as carnevale.
We’ve been waking up to temperatures of about -4°C at La Madera this week, proving that the Mediterranean climate is an extreme one. So, while we wait for the return of the 38°C days we experienced last summer, it’s time for winter comfort food: and here’s some from my childhood, pasta e fagioli, or as they say in Venice, pasta e fasioi.
This has been a great first year for Chestnuts and Truffles and I would like to thank each and every one of you who has visited, read, liked, shared, or commented on the site. I can promise you that 2016 will be an even better year with lots of authentic Italian recipes, how tos, reviews, and videos to come. I only started this blog in the spring but its been very successful already, achieving amongst other things the blue badge of approval from the Tuscan Tourist Board, which you can see on the right. And, if you’ve not seen it already, I’d like to draw your attention to the recipe for Hazelnut, cherry, and chocolate panforte which I created for their blog Tuscanycious! and which is pictured above.
This period is known as capodanno (head of the year) in Italy, and tonight Italians up and down the peninsula will be eating zampone or cotechino (types of sausage made with pigs trotter) with lentils, which are a sign of good luck and affluence for the year to come (the lentils represent coins).
I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my top five posts for 2015 and then to tell you what was the most memorable thing I’ve eaten this year.
Tramezzino, the diminutive of ‘in the middle’ is the Italian word for sandwich. Said to have been coined by the early-twentieth-century poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, the word is used to refer to sandwiches made with white pancarré bread, again said to have been invented in the Bar Mulassano in Turin. Notwithstanding their Piemontese origin, the most famous tramezzini are those made in the city of Venice.