An excursion into the local shopping highlights of Antella.
The Italians love Easter. And, as whenever there is a Festa, a holy or national Holiday, their hearts revolve around food.
Standing in a queue at the butcher in our local village of Antella is a lesson in life. The shop is heaving, at least ten people deep. The counter glistens full of delights. I watch the ladies in front of me and marvel at their shopping lists. For example:
2 bistecche….the Fiorentine steaks with bone, filet and entrecôte. Vast..probably a couple of kilos each. :
2 ‘fettine di tacchino’, slices of turkey breast to breadcrumb and fry as Milanese
’Un pollo’, a whole chicken
500gms of chicken livers…for the crostini
2 veal escalopes, for the ‘bambini’
8 ‘braciole di manzo’, beef slices, just in case’
1 Kilo of ‘arista’, loin of pork..for ‘Pasquetta’, Easter Monday
And the side of an ‘agnello’, a baby lamb so small you do need half one. Delicious with loads of fresh rosemary and of course lashings of garlic.
But we are not finished. Then 6 slices of ‘Galantina di Pollo’, a cold pressed chicken galantine,
A slice of the HUGE mozzarella,
A whole pecorino cheese, the fresh one only just in season.
The lady in question is then satisfied, relatively so, (for that was just one person’s purchases) and leaves staggering under the weight of her shopping, usually met by some male relative at the door to help her.
When I then order a modest amount I am almost looked on in pity. MY Easter is not going to live up to much in their eyes.
However while I have been watching the butcher dextrously prepare the order, I have been listening to the exchange of conversation around me. Starting with family news. Is ‘Lucia’ having a baby? What about Giovanni (perhaps a son)?, and How is Nonna/Granny?
The conversation moves on to local politics, and then involves everyone, just like being on the bus when total strangers end up bosom friends by the end of the journey. By the time they leave the shop it is practically ‘baci’ and hugs all round!
I trot round the corner to where the vegetable stall is on the corner of the road.
Simone’s display is a work of art. Piles of fresh vegetables pour over each other... new potatoes, baby broad beans to eat raw with Pecorino cheese, baby artichokes to eat raw dipped in our oil, mixed salad of baby leaves ('insalata del campo', field salad) and the tiny sprouts off the cavolo nero black cabbage. Tender young carrots tied up with their leaves on, radishes in bunches, baby zucchine and peas, fresh real peas that need shucking from their pods. Perfect for ‘Tagliatelle con panna, prosciutto e piselli’, tagliatelle with cream, ham and peas, our favourite springtime recipe.
And if we are lucky the first asparagus from Maremma. The sandy soil there suits it and the quality is amazing. My friend Tim was an asparagus fanatic and he would have rated this very highly (and probably obliged me to have an Asparagus Party of which more some other time).
The Italians make a tasty omelette with the fine thin asparagus which they call ‘erbina', or grass. And EGGS, I nearly forgot, the baskets of fresh eggs from someone local who has real hens. ‘Fresh enough to drink’, as their favourite saying goes.
And then of course I need to think of the Dolce. There is no problem as to where to go to find it, the only problem is CHOOSING! Bar Fiorella, on the piazza make all their own Pasticceria bakery produce. While having a restorative cappuccino I spot the hot faced chap in a white apron pop out from the kitchen with plates of dolce to store in the refrigerated display cupboard:
A traditional 'Torta della Nonna' with cream and almonds, various 'Meringate', fluffy meringues with layers of cream interspersed with tiny chocolate chips, the chocolate ice cream ‘bomb’ (our favourite), or, very popular with children and grown ups alike, the tarte with assorted fresh fruit on top in a bed of patisserie cream, so shiny they look fake.
And then of course there is the question of ice-cream, a whole counter of it to tempt me. Ice-cream in Italy is a national activity and everyone has their favourite ice cream shop, but Bar Fiorella wins. We are of course biased, but even our gelato-pro Florentine friends agree. The pistacchio is highly rated as is the chocolate, not to mention the chantilly, strawberry and the unforgettable limone.
Now it is time for me to stagger home, laden with large containers of the ice-cream to put in our freezer and bring out when our friends arrive. But I will have to go to the village again. I have forgotten the wine…
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