As we live in a rural location many of our neighbours are smallholders not just growing fruit and vegetables for the family but also providing meat, from the chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and pigs that they all seem to own at least some combination of.
Our neighbours Annunciata and Bruno usually just breed chickens and rabbits but at the end of every summer they obtain a pig especially to provide the family with pork over the winter months.
It was soon after our return from the UK that we were told that the annual slaughter would take place any day and that we would be attending the Celebration Lunch. It was of course given as an invitation but it was also made very clear that we were expected and that they would be very upset if we were unable to do so. For obvious reasons the slaughter takes place on a cold dry day most often in this region during the month of January. The first date planned was postponed due to the pouring rain, but the next day dawned bright and sunny so we were hurriedly informed of the re-scheduling early on a Sunday morning three weeks ago today.
We were expected at around 1pm but just before noon we were summoned by their grandson, who came running round the corner of our house shouting “The pig is dead, come quickly!”
“Il maiale e morto, vieni presto!” For some strange reason only known to little boys he thought we should see the gory part of the process from live pig to lunch. Duly summoned we went at once, not to return home again until 9pm that evening.
Ten of us for lunch and no English speakers, apart from the daughter-in-law who has her school girl English, better than she realises and our dictionary that also goes next door with us on such occasions. Plus the fact that the older locals all speak an almost incomprehensible dialect makes for a lively few hours, amusing for the Italians and exhausting for us, keeping up the pace with the conversation
The whole pig slaughtering ritual is special because of what follows after. All the members of the family work together to prepare the food for the meal and those to follow over the next few months. Lunch that day consisted of, so we were told the very best parts of the pig which are considered great delicacies and the most delicious part of the pig. Not too sure about what we were actually going to be eating I did not enquire about the details, as I decided it was best not to know precisely although I of course have my suspicions. I would not buy such parts myself but as guests we were prepared to try.
Well here is our lunch cooking in the traditional way over the open fire and it was we readily admit absolutely delicious!
A simply prepared and tasty dish of fagioli (beans) prepared with oil and garlic preceded the meat which was eaten alone apart from freshly baked bread.
Why is it the simply prepared fresh food is often the best?
That afternoon after lunch the family set to work butchering the animal as that evening we were going to be eating the very first pork steaks grilled over the open fire. We have never before eaten pork so fresh, tender and flavorsome. Again simply served alone with lemon and afterwards a salad.
Preparing the intestines which are used for the sausage skins
So an interesting introduction to an ancient Italian tradition that still seems very common certainly in this region amongst the contadini. An Italian word used locally for the small holding farmers whom are certainly not the peasants that the dictionary translation suggests.
The following day I went next door again to see the finishing touches being made to the sausage production.
As soon as the sausages were considered ready for consumption we once again joined the family for the ritual first tasting of both the ‘bianco’ ’white’ and ’black’ ‘nero’ home made sausages. The former were some of the best sausages we have eaten, I am sure the latter were as well but similar to the English black sausage in content they were not to our taste.
We are so well looked after by Annunciata and Bruno with constant invitations to eat with them, produce from the garden, food she has baked ( a simply delicious sweet pizza most recently)and lessons in how to carry out various tasks. We are constantly in their debt and wonder how we are ever going to repay such kindness? Ideas welcome as inviting them to join us in our home for more than a drink just does not seem to be part of the equation, but we are working on wearing them down on this in the hope that one day they will say yes!
Maybe they have a dread of English food or just ours in particular. We will have to introduce them to our cooking gradually, however that raises the problem that our diet is Mediterranean and far from English. Cooking them something we would not normally eat ourselves does not seem right to us!
Maybe we should just cook something traditionally English and deliver this to their door as a first step?
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