Rebecca attended an hour-long focaccia-making class the other day at a local fair. She mixed the ingredients while listening to a lecture on yeast. Then she kneaded, learning about the importance of temperature and moisture during raising. Finally, she shaped a focaccia, while being told about baking different kinds of breads. She left carrying her focaccia carefully with both hands, as if it were a precious crystal.
We have seen a slow but clear shift in the scope of the local fairs since moving to this part of rural Italy a decade ago. When we first arrived, most fairs were eating events (sagre), where locals would put up stands and tables with benches, and cook and sell typical local dishes: the snail fair, the eggplant fair, the sagra of the raviolo ... These events, which still take place every year, attract many tourists, who enjoy the chance to dine on regional foods in a regional setting.
Since then, a new kind of fair arose: more like promotional events than merely culinary ones, occasions where local and regional producers could offer samples and sell their wares - cheese, oil, preserves, wine - with the intent of making new contacts and new customers.
It's a new trend that probably has to do with Italy's deep economic crisis, and, more positively, with the growing attention to the issue of quality in the food we eat. More and more people, in fact, want to know where their food comes from, and whose hands are preparing it.
Slow Food and other associations support this trend, and help organize educational culinary activities at produce fairs where visitors are taught how to, say, make Ligurian focaccia or gut & cure Mediterranean anchovies. These activities are often aimed at children, and are wonderful opportunities to learn skills and traditions that, in turn, promote local, quality foods – while learning how to prepare them. An important – and tasty! – new trend.
Rebecca took her class and her new baking skills very seriously, and began her own baking proselytizing campaign. Fist, she showed me how to make focaccia (obviously, some times the best teacher isn't a parent). Then she taught her dollies. I think Slow Food would be proud of her - because when you teach a child, you really teach a community.
Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. If you'd like to join in, please leave a link to your Corner View post in the comments below, and be sure to visit other participants too.
Many thanks to Kristin for the theme today!
This week, to the celebrate the annual Infiorata Flower Festival, our friends decorated the shop where they sell freshly harvested vegetables they grow locally,* with flower decorations and a fresh-grass (real grass!) carpet. It was a beautiful blend of floral and vegetable design, and the shop looked like a magic garden.
The theme next week is "out & about".
Happy Corner Viewing!
Can I tell you again how much I love living near the Mediterranean, and how much I love these steep green hillsides that end where the blue waves begin? We had a wonderful dinner with friends on a boat in the bay of Santa Margherita Ligure, gently rocked by the sea.
Happy beginning to a new week!
These days, we're all humming it as we go about our activities, and, occasionally, I'll hear a teenager's tenor voice sing out a single word, "Mors!", his right hand raised in a theatrical gesture (didn't I always tell them that Latin would come in handy?). It's the music from the Requiem by Verdi, which my sister's choir performed just before Easter.
(photos taken during rehersal)
As I was sitting with my family and my niece in the church of San Francesco in Prato, crowded with a surprising number of people who'd come for the concert, observing my boys and all those present deeply absorbed by the music, at that moment in time it seemed to me that of all manmade things, this one that can't be touched nor seen, that can be experienced only by one of the five senses really, music, is the most involving on all levels.
When we finally arrived at the top of Giotto's Campanile, we thought we'd reached the most exciting part of the whole experience. But not so!
Oh, don't get me wrong, after climbing four hundred and fourteen narrow, dark, steep steps, all the while squeezing past the people who were trying to make their way down, the view we earned from the slender terrace at the top of the tower was magnificent (and scary too for those like me who suffer from vertigo!).
But the real thrill came later, when we'd descended the first flight of stairs to the first landing beneath the summit, and the bells of the tower suddenly began ringing to announce an Easter function over at the Cathedral. To say it was loud doesn't do justice to the sound of the seven huge bells tolling just above our heads (the biggest of which, il Campanone, is three centuries old, and is 2 meters in diameter, 2.10 meters tall, and weighs 5385 kilograms). It was so loud that the entire tower shook and vibrated, a somewhat disconcerting experience when you're still far above ground and dizzy from vertigo (me again!). In a brief moment of lucidity, I remembered that my camera has a nifty video function, and I manged to take a tiny recording of the event (shaking due to the sound waves, of course).
Imagine this symphony of bells played for a good long time, directly above your head and at considerably greater decibels, just minutes after you've climbed up 414 steps to the summit of a 84.75 meter high bell tower. I think good old Giotto and his work crew probably had a laugh at my faintness of heart.
When I think of our trip to Florence these last few days, and try to find a narrative to share for all the things we did and saw in just a short time, I'm at a loss for words.
Because each time I'm in Florence, I'm rendered speechless by the dense richness of the city's history and art: wherever you are, by day or at night, if you glance up, you'll see a breathtaking view.
Just as a local proverb predicted, we had seven snowfalls this winter: the last one yesterday, on March 18th, practically on Spring's eve. Here's to hoping that the proverbs will now assist us in finally saying goodby to Winter.
Family life at the edge of an ancient rural community near the Mediterranean
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