Che bevanda delicata!
Che diletto che mi dà!
Viva pur la cioccolata
che dà gusto e sanità.
What a delicate beverage!
What joy it gives me!
God save chocolate
which is tasty and healthy!
(Carlo Goldoni, La Conversazione, 1758)
Although on a misty end-of-winter day like today you wouldn’t know it, La Madera is on the slopes of a mountain called Alpe Faggeta. A respectable height of 1,510 metres (4,954 feet) makes it taller than Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. This appenine hill, however, would be dwarfed by the highest peak in Italy. This distinction goes to Monte Bianco, aka Mont Blanc, which straddles the French-Italian border and at 4,810 metres (15,780 feet) is the highest point in both countries, as well as Western Europe.
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.
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.