How many are the memories of taste that come to mind around the table? For us so many. It is in company that we most often remember ourselves in the dishes of our grandparents, rediscovering traditions and ancient pleasures.
We have thought of making a collection of ancient but always recent and current recipes, because cooking is indeed a simple gesture but full of meaning, it is in our opinion the leitmotif of a journey into memory.
First courses with memories of taste at the table
Capelletti or anolini in broth
We are between Reggio Emilia and Modena with cappelletti and in Parma instead are the anolini: even the shape is different, the filling but always fresh pasta and hot broth. A dish that has been made since the dawn of time and that puts every diner in agreement. Surely to put on the table a steaming bowl of “floats” every excuse is the good one but they are the spearhead on festive occasions, Christmas, Easter, and yes, even August, when the thermometer marks 40 degrees!
The Pisarei from Piacenza
Here we go so far back in time to when you put what you had on the table because the ingredients were poor. The dish is of peasant origins and the materials derived from the slaughter of the pig were used: pork rinds, sausage, lard and what was found in the vegetable garden. Then when the dish was made, it was a big party even if many times it was miserable, it was like having gold on the table. Today, depending on the recipes, there are different variations not so much for the pisarei but for the sauce.
Soup with lard and galàn
Those who worked long hours in the countryside under the scorching sun just wanted to go home, rest and find a good plate of vegetable soup or minestrone or lard soup with thin noodles or “galàn” (or “galanini” low). The dish was made with water (or broth for the lucky ones), old bread, chopped lard, parsley, garlic and galàn, that is the scraps of freshly dried pasta, which were left over from the pastry. Today, however, lard is not used, but galàn are and it is a pleasure to give it different shapes and how to pinch the pastry with your fingers and make butterflies or the classic cutouts to throw in the soup.
Gnocchi with tomato and basil
There was hardly a lack of potatoes and tomatoes in the countryside and the dish that never failed was the gnocchi al pomodoro with a few leaves of fresh basil, which gave the bowl an inviting aroma. If you could add some courgettes in the middle, then it was a big party. Making them was and still is very simple. You boil the potatoes in water and salt, mash them and mix them with the flour and then make curls with a fork. The pot was put to boil and when they came to the surface, they were ready to be thrown into the soup tureen with the lean sauté and the last touch were the basil leaves that gave the dish a very special aroma. Isn’t it still an inviting appointment today?
The black puddings
It is known that in the countryside at the time pigs were killed and it was customary to prepare “black pudding” with blood and fat and often in winter it was eaten seasoned in polenta. In various areas of Italy it was mixed with bread, potatoes and rice. Or with bitter cocoa a typical dessert was created in the Neapolitan area. Today and for many years it cannot be used, (by law it is forbidden to sell it for obvious hygienic and sanitary reasons) but when it happened at the time, it was a big party because those who had the opportunity to do so in home, it was a very tasty dish and the occasion was to be around the table to celebrate this holiday.
Chicken Cacciatore with polenta and potatoes
The memory is often associated with the harvest period: at the time people used to go to the houses of others to help in the grape harvest and often stayed for lunch or dinner. Chicken Cacciatore was often cooked with polenta and potatoes. A very simple but very tasty dish and the occasion was to gather all together around the table to celebrate the harvest festival and to tell each other stories and share the hardships of the days. Polenta together with potatoes and chicken were never lacking in farmers’ houses and it was the right time to “pull the neck” of the chicken.
Sweet and “brusc”
In dialect they are called “düls e brüsc”: they are the feet of the pig cooked and seasoned. It is an ancient and unique dish that especially grandmothers cooked from time to time. It is a poor but simple and tasty recipe, it is a different way of cooking them: normally they are only boiled or roasted. Here they are made with water, half a glass of strong vinegar, a spoonful of sugar and one of conventrata red preserve and breadcrumbs. However, boil the feet and divide them into four parts when they are soft, add the preserves, sugar and vinegar. It is cooked for half an hour to dry well and put the breadcrumbs to thicken everything. Simple but tasty.
Savoy cabbage with salami and pork rinds
There is little to do … those who had a piece of land and who worked in the fields were certainly more advantaged especially with regard to cooking. Savoy cabbage, salami and pork rind was a unique dish, especially tasty when accompanied with good homemade bread. It was also an occasion when relatives gathered around the table and then there was more to do. Then the cabbage in season, large and with a thousand virtues, together with the pork offered the right combination.
Here we open a difficult chapter in the Parma area … a recipe for radition, in every house there was his own, but let’s talk about the classic peperonata. It was called “Vecchia” because it was a dish made with leftover food and since it was not thrown away, it was “recycled” with other and new flavors. Generally they used red peppers and onions with ripe tomatoes (left over from the broth) and a knob of butter. Everything was boiled and brought to the table together with boiled meats, pork, or even and why not, over a hot slice of bread.
The raw green sauce
It is an appetizing and inviting green sauce that tickles the palate and in the countryside it was prepared with simple fresh parsley, garlic, onion, a few tablespoons of vinegar, oil and salt. It was very suitable with egg and boiled meat, or, again, with freshly baked bread. Even today it is made and is tasty combined with boiled meat or fish.
Sweets and liqueurs
Puffers of papacy
In the countryside, potatoes were generally never lacking and with flour, sugar, eggs, yeast and butter, these potato morsels were made, fried in lard and served with a sprinkling of icing sugar. They are still made today, not with lard, but in oil and at the time children loved it, especially for snacks.
Once the fruit was collected by hand and when it was very abundant it was used to put it in jars, and with sugar and water, to make syrup to use over time. In this very simple recipe, with two egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour, macaroons, and peaches in syrup, the cream was made and then spread over the peaches and amaretti and thus make a parfait to put in the fridge and appreciate at the end of a meal. But also as a snack.
In a very simple way, with eggs, sugar, chocolate, butter and some crumbled biscuits on top, the pudding was made. Even today, instead of using bste, if you want a genuine product you can bring it to the table and for the happiness of children, it is still a very popular dessert. A sign is that the tradition of the past never runs out.
When it was season, (but even today it is custom) it was prepared in large quantities because it cheered up the table at the end of the meal. A way to welcome relatives and friends for an after meal. Some also put it in small and particular bottles and it was customary to give it away for Christmas. However, there was a secret for it to be done in a workmanlike manner: in fact, to obtain a perfect novicno, walnuts were only harvested from 23 to 29 June or on the night of St. John. In fact, tradition has it that walnuts must “take the dew of St. John to be special”.
Let’s close the memories of taste around the table
We admit it: some of these dishes are still brought to the table today and the best moment is to remember the variations while tasting. A debate promptly opens that never ends, because that way not so … so maybe, you don’t remember well … In short, a nice jumble of different ideas and opinions.
But this is precisely the beauty and if you think about it (and maybe you agree with us), how many times it happens (it happened …) in the tables that we campers do, when people from the most disparate regions sat down and then it was a riot of joy and memories.
We took a nice journey into the memories of taste around the table for this very reason: traveling in the past as a reminder of a simple but genuine food and wine.
Now the word is yours: you add a plate of memories with a taste of home and that you often tell while sitting around the table.