Texte de Marie-Claude Lortie

Le Coronavirus leur a rendu la vie un peu plus compliquée, à cause des annulations de vols et de la décision de plusieurs participantes de ne pas se déplacer jusqu’en Turquie, mais la crise de santé publique ne les a pas arrêtées. Elles se sont réunies, et elles ont parlé de pêche durable, d’agriculture, de santé mentale, de succès, d’échecs, de vins, de cuisine, du pain, du beurre et de l’argent du beurre. Elles étaient de Bali, de Colombie, du Canada, de Slovénie et oui, d’Italie en tout plus de 300 provenant de 42 pays, dont 12 conférencières, réunies dans l’auditorium Gran Pera dans le coeur d’Istanbul. Et elles se sont promis, au bout de deux jours de discussions et d’écoute dans la métropole turque, de se retrouver à Paris l’an prochain.

Ce sont les participantes du Parabere Forum, un événement fondé et piloté par la journaliste franco-espagnole Maria Canabal, épaulée pour cette édition par la photographe et designer turque Sibel Kutlusoy. Animé par la journaliste australienne Joanna Savill, ce forum réunit à chaque année dans une ville différente des femmes surtout, mais aussi des hommes, tous et toutes issus des métiers de la bouche et partageant une volonté de mettre à l’avant-plan les femmes de tous les secteurs de la gastronomie. Cette année le thème était « Le futur de l’alimentation ». 

Foto di Parabere Forum Facebook Page

Entre la légendaire Claudia Roden, auteure de grands livres de cuisine qui ont traduit les cuisines de la Méditerranée pour un public nord-européen et nord-américain qui ne les connaissait pas, la jeune prodige péruvienne Elizabeth Puquio et la cuisinière entrepreneure militante biologique danoise Trine Hahnemann, qui vient de vendre son importante entreprise de traiteur pour investir ses efforts en agriculture, les conférenciers ont donc parlé de sujets aussi vastes que variés sur l’avenir de la nourriture.

La chef brésilienne Roberta Sudbrack, par exemple, a raconté comment elle a choisi il y a trois ans, à la surprise générale, de fermer son restaurant étoilé pour chercher une toute nouvelle façon beaucoup plus en accord avec ses valeurs du coeur, de faire de la cuisine. « Quand les papillons dans l’estomac ne sont plus là, il faut arrêter et changer ce qu’on fait », a expliqué à la salle celle qui veille aussi sur un nouveau festival d’agriculture biologique à Trancoso, dans Bahia.

Un peu plus tôt, l’autrice et journaliste britannique Bee Wilson avait expliqué comment son organisme, TastED apprend aux enfants à gouter aux bons produits et ingrédients car c’est la non-éducation, la non-expérience gustative qui permet à la malbouffe de proliférer. La veille, la restauratrice et militante britannique Thomasina Miers avait parlé de l’importance de l’agriculture propre et de cesser de massacrer nos terres, les sols, avec des produits chimiques. Propos absolument partagé par Darina Allen d’Irlande, cofondatrice de la célèbre école de cuisine Ballymaloe.

Les messages à retenir de tout ce qui a été dit? « Il y en a plusieurs, répond Maria Canabal. Le sol est l’ingrédient secret de nos cuisines. Le passé est le présent et notre futur. Les femmes nourrissent le monde, pas les corporations… » Oh, et aussi: « Le leadership du futur de l’alimentation est entre les mains des femmes.»

Le prochain forum aura lieu à Paris, les 7 et 8 mars prochain.

Words and photos by Tania Mauri

Fabio Ciriaci and his love of dough have made Gusto Madre an essential and sought out destination for pizza lovers. Located in Alba, Piemonte, a centre of artisan and world famous foods from hazelnut spread to cheese, chocolate spread to Barolo wines and white truffles. These are typical products of the Langhe, of which the city Alba is among the best ambassadors. Chef Ciriaci operates his pizzeria in the historic center where he prepares, with passion and enthusiasm, a tightly curated range of gourmet pizza.

Born in 1987 and raised in the same northern Italian region where he now lives and works Ciriaci’s passion for cooking was inherited from his grandmother, Elvira, a great family cook. At the age of 14, attending the Hotel Management School in Turin and thanks to his teacher Renato Crivello, he came to understood that cooking was his world and started working as an assistant cook in several restaurants across the French Riviera, the Costa Smeralda and Milan at the restaurant Aimo e Nadia.

But is was while working in the kitchen of the Turin-based Dolce Stil Novo restaurant with chef Alfredo Russo at the helm that his focus and interest shifted to the creativity of making pastry. Before long, Ciriaci moved and gained experience working as a pastry chef at Baratti & Milano and then at Eataly Torino where he was entrusted with the role of managing the pastry of Luca Montersino. After a year and a half he started working in Montersi’s Golosi di Salute laboratory as production manager. It was here that he invented and patented a vegetable fat, a substitute for butter and margarine based on rice oil and cocoa butter, which is still available to buy under the brand name of Risolì.

Around this time his passion for about sourdough with all its nuances and flavours began to take shape. During this time he met his wife Francesca, with whom he now manages Gusto Madre, with who he fashioned the concept of offering a contemporary pizzeria experience, synonymous with the search for simple and authentic tastes. The passion for pastry and the familiarity he acquired in the use of sourdough led him to create light, digestible and tasty doughs thanks to the use of different flours and new blends. Diners at Gusto Madre are offered pizza in six different formats. Firstly Sei Friabile, a reinterpretation of the traditional Roman focaccia, is made with  whole grain flour giving the finished pizza added crumbliness and the aroma of toasted wheat. Sei Soffice has a soft dough which enhances the pristine taste of the five grains that make it up – whole rye, buckwheat, wheat and two varieties of spelt flour.

The Sei Croccante pizza is another interpretion of the classic Roman-style focaccia but his time made with Ostenga, an indigenous  and an increasingly rare variety of white corn flour from Piemonte, which gives the final pizza a delicious, lingering after taste and crunchiness; Sei Infinita, a crunchy 50 cm oblong slice of pizza, is generous enough for two people to share. The Sei Classica is made with live sourdough given plenty of time to ferment, 100% Italian wheat flour and stone-ground rich in fibre, while the sixth pizza on offer, the Sei Autentica, is made by spontaneous fermentation and 100% spelt flour.

Raw materials are selected also for the seasonings, ranging from the classics to the most imaginative and creative, such as the Sei Soffice Giovenca Black Angus (recipe below!). Here the dough is covered with seed for a crunchy effect enhancing both the high quality Angus beef sourced from Piedmont, along with the raclette cheese and vegetables. If this dish would be presented in a blind tasting, the diner might believe they were eating an excellent cheeseburger, accompanied with by a side dish of Jerusalem artichokes which could be easily be mistaken for French fries.

With Ciriaci’s training in pastry cooking the desserts you can expect a delicious choice of final dishes. Here, he has dedicated a whole dessert menu based on novel twists on traditional Italian favourites such as Cream Caramel with lemon cream and a pistachio waffle.

A new father, Ciriaci is not hanging around and is planning a food laboratory and test kitchen with a focus on creating high quality pastries.

Sei soffice con burger di Giovenca Black Angus

For the dough

600 g organic type 0 flour

50 g organic whole wheat rye flour

50 g organic whole wheat spelt flour

100 g organic Enkir flour

100 g organic spelt flour

6 g brewer’s yeast

600 g water

Dissolve the yeast in the water and knead all the ingredients in the mixer for 2 minutes obtaining a rough dough, place in an oiled container and mature for 20 hours at 4°C.

For the sourdough

150 g organic type 0 flour

50 g organic buckwheat flour

90 g water

20 g liquid mother yeast

1 g sweet Cervia salt

Dissolve the mother yeast in water and knead all the ingredients for 4 minutes obtaining a rough dough, place in an oiled container and mature for 16 hours at 18°C

For the final dough

50 g 0 organic flour

20 g water

5 g malt powder

35 g extra virgin olive oil

20 g sweet salt from Cervia

200 mixed seeds

Combine the 2 pre-doughs, add the flour, the malt and mix until a smooth dough is obtained, finally add the water and salt and immediately after the oil mix again for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 1 hour, then form the 180 g balls and let it rise for 90m minutes. Gently spread the dough directly on the seeds so as to make them adhere well to the dough, up to a diameter of 16 / 18cm place in a oiled pan and let rise for about 2 and a half hours. Turn the dough upside down on the table and bake directly on the stone in the oven at 260°C for about 6 minutes.

To serve (per portion)

200 g of Black Angus beef burger from Piedmont

50 g of smoked raclette

Radicchio, to taste

Confit cherry tomatoes, to taste

Carrot ketchup, to taste

Fried Jerusalem artichokes, to taste Cook the meat about a minute and a half on each side and insert inside the sandwich. Add the raclette cheese, radicchio, confit cherry tomatoes and carrot ketchup on top. In the center of the plate lay the previously sliced and fried Jerusalem artichok

Words by Ilaria Mazzarella

Photo courtesy of restaurant Antica Fonderia

Crossing the Via del Pellegrino heading towards Campo de ‘Fiori in the heart of Rome, I am excitedly on my to meet an old friend. The biting cold air of an anonymous January afternoon chills my uncovered face. After a brisk walk I arrive, and quickly spot Spanish-born chef Alba Esteve Ruiz’s sweet face through the restaurant’s glass doors, absorbed in thought. Alba’s newest place of work is Antica Fonderia, a Roman restaurant artfully blending human warmth with solemn austerity. The cuisine is one of grilling with fire, tempered with a refined and creative Mediterranean cuisine. The space is decorated in wood, marble, blown glass, inlays of brass and lots, and lots, of golden flourishes. Gold trimming is found on the table, tableware and walls giving the feeling is of a well-balanced compositional tension characterized by a passionate attention to detail. The colours of the interior space and carefully curated design details reflect the space’s former life as the Lefevre Foundry where precious metals such as gold were once heated by raw fire, refined and hammered into shape.

Behind Alba’s large, round signature glasses her face framed by the black bandana and wearing a burnt sienna coloured jacket she is instantly recognizable. It’s always her. The spirited Spaniard who, aged just 19, packed her bags and roll of chef knives and left her family to pursue her path of hard work and sacrifice. If that’s a brave move for a man, it’s very difficult for a woman. Her journey has seen her working in iconic Spanish kitchens such as Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca and before arriving in the Roman kitchens of Marzapane where she embraced  contemporary Italian cuisine. Then she fell in love. Firstly with the life and spirit of the Eternal City and then with a local boy whom she later married. When later she had the tempting opportunity to return home to Spain or to a kitchen in Milano – she chose Rome. Again. Clear, crystalline, focused ideas which shyness cannot hide. I quickly recognise the essence of the young women that I first met all those years ago.

Well, welcome to the realm of ancestral cuisine, or using raw fire to cook. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable, choose from the menu, and fill your glasses. The show is about to begin. And so starts an adventure in which only a raw fire, a wood oven, coals, experience and cooking skills are demanded. “At the beginning it was a nightmare to get used to this new way of cooking,” says Alba. Today the hand tames the flames and selects the wood works with an enviable ease. The fires on the grill are lit at six, before 45 minutes late the the first log is pressed into the oven. “I use eye drops every day and pour water into the glasses of both. “I have to put cream on my face and cocoa butter over and over again.” Her gaze exudes all the tiredness familiar from a restaurant’s start-up phase. Wasn’t it the British poet and writer Oscar Wilde who said that: “The one advantage of playing with fire … is that one never gets even singed. It is the people who don’t know how to play with it who get burned up.”

“Then everyone rushes to changing rooms, to avoid the initial blast of smoke,” she says. At seven the fire is alive and the kitchen is fully operational. Well dried oak and beech wood get the first started quickly, before the slower burning coal is added on a giant Argentine grill. The choice of wood is crucial to achieve the best flavour profiles. For hot smoking apple and cherry wood works best, with almond wood a natural match for cold smoking. Some preparations are oven smoked with beech. Antica Foneria is owned by patron Cesare Bettozzi, deus ex machina of working with live fire, and himself a Roman entrepreneur who has spent three decades away from the city, mostly in the US. Naturally, there are flashes of  Spain on the menu. Jamón, anchovies, baccalà, Segovia’s piglet are all listed. Other meat is sourced from the longstanding Roman butcher De Angelis.

Several of Alba’s signature dishes, such as Crucifere and Carbonara are also listed. Her husband, the Italian with whom she fell in love and stayed in Italy for, is Michel Magoni, room manager and sommelier at Antica Foneria. “I could not think of doing everything alone in the restaurant, you always need the collaboration of a trusted professional,” she says. “Better if it’s your partner”. Indeed, they (rightly) treasure it, reminding us that the most significant catering is almost always done in family-run kitchens and restaurants. “Just don’t take the problems of work home,” is Alba’s advice.

Everything is tested: the large tables, the latest trend, the novelty of the moment. But you inevitably tend to return and sit at those tables where you feel most comfortable. Maybe because it’s like being at home only that you are served and you don’t wash the dishes? Maybe. Honours from critics are important, of course. But is there something that gives more satisfaction than a restaurant full of customers who keep coming and going simply because they are doing well? Maybe not. As the night’s service ends, the restaurant empties, the staff head for home and rest, Alba’s takes one last look around the kitchen and what remains of the fire. She says: “In the evening, the embers are left to die and the next day we start again”.

Antica Fonderia

Via del Pellegrino, 65

00186 Roma (RM)

Tel: + 39  06 6928 2203

www.ristoranteanticafonderia.it

Words from Redazione Cook_inc.

Photo from Culinaria

Between the 29th and 30th of September, Trastevere – located on the west bank of the river Tiber in Rome – hosted the arena for an extraordinary fusion between the worlds of art and cooking that was Culinaria – il Gusto dell’Identità. Over these two days, the beautifully light-flooded WE GIL building – a remnant of fascist times – was filled with notable culinary talent and creatively thought-out exhibitions, thus proving how well both components could work together in creating an unprecedented event. Already featured on Culinaria’s promotional posters, Thomas Duval’s photography line “Bondage vegetale” was notably one of the most important parts of the exhibition. Furthermore, a melting chocolate sculpture done in collaboration between Francesca Pinzari and Walter Musco, Andrea Tortora and Pere Gifre’s masterpiece of dough enclosed in a structure and, bound into a unique book, the blend of food and fashion by Nicoletta Lanati were joined, among others, by the works of Giuseppe Guanci, Ria Lussi, Lorenzo Cicconi Massi and late Andrea Salvetti. Throughout it all, the artistic detail was designed to work together with the ideas and dishes of the respective partner chefs and made for ingenious pairings, enjoyable for the general public and positively eye-opening and inspiring for art and food lovers.

For one couple, however, the connection between artist and cook runs much deeper than of colleagues alone. Lukas and Manuel Mraz are brothers and put the Sohn (eng. son) in their father’s restaurant Mraz & Sohn, coincidentally located on the western bank of the river Danube in yet another beautiful European capital: Vienna, Austria. Together they took the stage towards the end of Day One and captivated the audience with each of their talents – one cooked, while the other one had prepared a painting – combined perfectly with a pinch of the famous Wiener Schmäh, the typical Viennese humour. Talking about how their father’s amazing cooking abilities balanced out the five times their mother might have cooked for them, how Vienna has so much amazingly fresh spring water that even the toilets are flushed with it and about how the imperial castle Schloss Schönbrunn is perfectly equipped with its own orangery, which provides Viennese kitchens with citrus fruits from all over the world – and Lukas’ plate. The star of the cooking show, however, was the enokitake mushrooms, which made an appearance on the plate not just once, not even twice, but in three different versions: first steamed as the quintessential noodles in the reinvented Roman “cacio e pepe” dish prepared on stage. Secondly, rehydrated and reduced to an intensely flavoured sauce and as a third trick dried and ground like black pepper and acting just like the spice in the final dish: “We usually do this step [adding the mushroom powder] in front of the customer and whenever they decline pepper, we just keep going”, Lukas recounts smiling mischievously. And indeed, while the mysterious dark specks taste decidedly peppery, they add the promised mushroom note too.

After the dish is prepared and handed out to the hungry and curious audience, the show continues with yet another highlight: Manuel’s painting – until then facing backwards and displaying the words “Moment’s Notice” – is turned around to reveal a portrait of his brother, which – to the soundtrack of the spectator’s gasps – Manuel promptly covers in white paint again. The reason: moments are fleeting, and one should always remember to notice – better yet, to really live – each minute life is presenting us with. This idea, taken from Manuel’s experience as a jazz player and his respect for legendary saxophonist John Coltrane and his “Moment’s Notice” song from 1957, was showcased beautifully, depicting Lukas’ cooking as the moment itself.

In the end, it is as if the whole event unwittingly stood under the mantra of noticing moments, for both, the aforementioned chocolate structure and the dough changed continuously and bigger shows, like Nicoletta Lanati’s presentation of “Food in Fashion” – combined with the Il Giglio boy’s oyster – and the photography works of Thomas Duval and Lorenzo Cicconi Massi, worked hard at immortalizing feelings on the pages of a book, a canvas or within the pixels of a picture, catching moments for the world to experience even after the event had finished.

Take a look at this video

Words and Photos by Carla Capalbo

“Climate change – and global warming – are the biggest thing that has ever happened in human history”, said Amitan Ghosh during Terra Madre – Salone del gusto 2018 (read more about it here).

What are some of the solutions proposed at Terra Madre? Returning to low-impact ancestral methods of crop cultivations that don’t impact so negatively on the soils. Banning poisonous pesticides and weedkillers, and of course monocultures of genetically modified and sterile seeds. Eating more plants and definitely much less meat. (Indeed, the hope is to reduce the west’s consumption of meat by 50%). Use crops that have natural resistance to heat and scarcity of water rather than those that need constant irrigation in areas with limited water resources. Fonio, a forgotten ancient grain from sub-Saharan Africa, is such an ingredient, and has become the project of chef Pierre Thiam in New York who sees it as one of the nutritional super-foods of the future.

For chefs, one solution may be to rethink the use of meat as the main attraction in a meal. “You need to reinvent yourself completely, and to forget everything you learned before because it was based on fossil fuels,” says chef Xavier Hamon from France, who heads the French Slow Food Chef’s Alliance. “We long ago decided to work responsibly, in particular on the use of meat in the plate. This does not always mean reducing the amount of meat in a dish, though of course that’s part of it, but also changing the way we cut and store it using ancestral methods of salting, smoking and drying.”

Multi-starred French chef, Olivier Roellinger, is spearheading a joint venture between Relais et Châteaux and Slow Food to develop a manifesto for the kitchens of the world’s top tables. “The world’s larder is in extreme danger, and chefs can and must make a difference too with big changes in their attitudes, reducing waste and saving energy,” he says. “In haute cuisine there is plenty of room for imagination to be applied to this approach to food,” says Anatoly Kazakov, one of Russia’s foremost young talents who cooks at Selfie in Moscow. “In Russia we face challenges from embargoes and unsustainability but we have used them to help us focus more on local ingredients – such as tiny cucumbers and seafood obtained from free diving – that are available within a radius of 100 to 200 kilometres from Moscow.” He showcased three delicious and subtly complex dishes that each featured just four of these natural ingredients, including fermented green tomatoes, sweet raw scallops, sour sorrel and young almonds.

Slow Food took the opportunity at the Salone to bundle many of these initiatives into its climate-change programme, called Food for Change (#foodforchange). “We need to communicate and share these ideas, regardless of what our leaders do,” says Richard McCarthy, Slow Food’s executive director in the USA. They range from reducing food waste and eating local, to meatless weeks and celebrating local food-producing communities, as well as to the well-established Ark of Taste (for saving endangered foods and their makers) and many other key projects. The Università Diffusa is a notable new project that will see students learn not only from academics but also from people with traditional skills in producing food and working the land. Chef Alice Waters is working on a proposal that would see all the schools in her area in California (and then hopefully many other states) offer free lunches to all their students from ingredients that are sourced locally and produced sustainably.

“These ideas are strong and easy to communicate,” says Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s creator and president. “We need to take on health, climate change and other big themes using the political and social biodiversity that the Terra Madre network brings if we are to fight for the dignity and survival of our planet. We can’t accept our politicians’ defense of national interests in a struggle that challenges our global community. We will join with chefs and farmers in resisting their denial that climate change is happening.”

 

 

 

Words and Photos by Carla Capalbo

“To cook is to be a revolutionary today” Olivier Roellinger

With a large part of the 5-day activities back in their original home at Lingotto, this year’s Terra Madre-Salone del Gusto was easier to navigate, even if some of the local colour and charm from Turin’s streets were missing. The Oval is Terra Madre territory, with contadini, fisherwomen and other small-scale food producers from dozens of countries around the world showing and telling about their native ingredients and foods. The Terra Madre Cucina featured a list of wonderful cooks and chefs from this network. I ate delicious meals from Algeria, Malaysia, Portugal and beyond.

As I have been to every Salone since the initial one 24 years ago, I now use Terra Madre as an opportunity to attend the conferences and forums where I can listen to the food activists, economists, climatologists and other expert accounts and learn firsthand what the challenges to our food production – and lives – are. This year’s message was an incredibly bitter and frightening one to absorb. (And it was underscored by the unheard-of high temperatures in Turin in those late September days, of 30°C.) As Amitan Ghosh, the Indian author who has written extensively on the problems facing his continent put it: “Climate change – and global warming – are the biggest thing that has ever happened in human history.”

 

Every conference theme reinforced this assertion. Whether it was the issue of climatic immigration, desertification of land, uncontrollable flooding, the harm created by industrial livestock programmes, the acidification of the oceans, the impact of cement-production on the CO2 levels in China, the fight for water and land rights…the message everywhere was the same: We all have to address climate change in a more proactive way, and we have to do it now. Or it really will be too late. The focus has changed from a timetable that foresaw the rise in global warming reaching the 2°C that the Paris Accord is seeking by the end of the century, to something much much more urgent.

“We cannot continue with this ‘business as usual’ attitude,” says Luca Mercalli, one of Italy’s most prestigious climatologists. “If we don’t make radical changes now, it will be 5°C by the end of the century and that means a catastrophe for humans and every other living thing on our planet.” Too many governments are in denial about this (including the USA, obviously, though individual states such as California have decided to take matters into their own hands and not wait for federal action). The problems are so vast that they can seem overwhelming. Yet if we react now, as many people throughout the world are doing, we may be able to at least slow the tide.

 

What are some of the solutions proposed at Terra Madre?

Continue to read here.

Words and pictures by Redazione Cook_inc.

The children were first; first to investigate the big wine vat standing in the middle of the field; first to indulge in its special brand of magic, energy and excitement by reaching their little feet into the berries; first, too, to take the exercise to the next level, landing head first among freshly squeezed grapes, drenching themselves and their cloths in wine-coloured juice. Most importantly, though, they also come first in the eyes of Famiglia Cotarella, who recently opened the doors of ‘Fattoria Tellus’ – a special project, designed to reacquaint children and nature – for their little guests.

What may, at first, seem an unlikely combination loses all its abstruseness, as soon as one hears the Cotarella Sisters speak about the program, its friendly mascot, grandfather figure Nonno Enos, or the workshops they have conducted with and centred around children. Already then, Enos helped children to understand the importance of the land by introducing the world of wine in a playful and sporty way, by teaching them to transform the grapes into food products and finally, by having them draw out their multi-sensory experience on paper. These paintings – some done by “my own son, Giovanni”, Dominga recounts with a smile and breaks into the anecdote – later found themselves as the labels of a limited edition Tellus Syrah, whose proceeds went to IRIS, an association that helps women, who suffer from neoplastic diseases, thus combining the children’s artistic work with a good cause.

These Falesco values, notable even in naming their wine after the Roman goddess of the earth, are also taught to children at ‘Fattoria Tellus’. Topics like environment, health, time, sport, game and respect are being passed on by Nonno Enos through rugby games, sensory labs and other fun activities in the didactic farm. As a family-owned winery it is the last value, the word famiglia (eng. family), however, that runs through the whole undertaking like the proverbial red thread. Already in its third generation, the Falesco winery, has seen the switch from founders Antonio and Domenico Cotarella to their sons Renzo and Riccardo and, subsequently, to the current all-female line-up: daughters Marta, Enrica and Dominga. Though cousins by blood, the three grew up as sisters and are today combining the love of a family, the power of friendships and the effectiveness of strong business women into one energetic whole.

The result of such female energy could be seen on September 9th, when Dominga Cotarella, responsible for the winery’s communication and marketing sector, introduced their new project to the public, inviting fellow founders of children related programs to talk about the importance of outdoor activities, sport and nature and thus underlining the powerful drive behind ‘Fattoria Tellus’. Following their presentation (#SeiUnForzadellaNatura), a traditional harvesting feast could be attended by young and old, featuring beautiful Alta Tuscia products prepared by AgriChef in collaboration with Coldiretti, Campagna Amica and Slow Food, Falesco wines, music and – the highlight of the day – the wine vat. When I finally joined the children playing in the grapes, it all started to make sense to me, a new realisation popping into my head like the berries underneath my feet: today’s children are the activists of the future and in a world that so desperately needs people to reconnect with local quality products and the earth they are living on, one cannot start educating early enough.

Azienda Vinicola Falesco s.r.l.

Loc. San Pietro, snc

05020 Montecchio (TR)

Tel. +39 0744 9556

Fax +39 9744 951219

Email: info@falesco.it

www.falesco.it

 

 

 Words and pictures by Gloria Feurra

The first information is a quantitative one: to make a liter of colatura you need about 1,650 anchovies. As I observe the sober 100 ml glass bottle, I picture 165 small fishes piled next to the laptop and I gasp. The second information is an aesthetic one: inside the vault where the product ages, one of the most vigorous and enigmatic whiffs overwhelmed my sense of smell like nothing has ever done before, disorienting and captivating it. Today, I attempt to decrypt it: it is the scent of a deep sea, salty and rocky, harnessed inside antique wooden casks.

At 64 Corso Umberto I, in Cetara, the Giordano family’s shop and laboratory, whose blueish sign asserts: Nettuno, prodotti ittici conservati (preserved fish products), has resided since 1950. I visit them on a late August Friday, after an epic drive along the renowned turns of the Amalfi Coast, still in its balmy golden season. Giulio is waiting in his workshop and, after a vigorous handshake, immediately points out that although on their website and sign one can read since 1950”, his family’s activity dates back to much more remote times. Before his father Raffaele, there was his namesake, grandfather Giulio, and one could continue backwards through this circularity of names in a loop perhaps as old as the colatura itself. His family heritage awakens a fresh memory: “In Cetara colatura was once only eaten in winter, when you did not have fresh fish; you would eat it on Christmas Eve, to season pasta, whereas now restaurants serve it year-round, thankfully!”

Credits: www.nettunocetara.it

While starting from the ‘90s its consumption has spread over 365 days per year, the production of Nettuno’s colatura tradizionale, which proudly carries a Slow Food snail of approval, strictly complies with the rules of the biologic calendar, rather than the market ones: in the Gulf of Salerno, between April and August (or according to other beliefs between March 25th, the Annunciation, and July 22nd, Saint Magdalene’s Day) large schools of anchovies approach the coast to lay their eggs. In the dead of the night, boats equipped with fishing light attractors (locally called cianciolo) fill their nets with a silver prize. “Before six in the morning we have them here in the workshop”, says Giulio, and from that point on a story that will last for two years begins. The procedure prescribes for anchovies to be immediately decapitated and eviscerated (scapezzate), and left for the following 24 hours in a wood container filled with salt, “so they lose water”. What follows, if one were to hear it before tasting the final result – what are you waiting for? Shame on you! – would likely sound impossible to work. It is a fermented fish juice, and it is ancestral, mysterious, marvelous, exquisite. To summarize: the anchovies, now partially dehydrated, are ready to be arranged testa-coda (heads-to-tails) inside the terzigni (keg-sized, open-top chestnut barrels), in between abundant layers of salt. The last layer sketches the corona (crown), a sunburst of tiny fishes acting as the colatura maker’s signature, this one being Nettuno’s:

frame from the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PON9sILM9bc

The corona will be first copiously covered with salt, then capped by the tombagno – a wooden disk with smaller diameter than the barrel’s opening – on top of which “river stones taken from the sea” will rest, smooth and heavy, gathered by the grandfathers and washed only once in freshwater before touching forever and exclusively saltwater. Roughly 25 kilograms of fish lie inside each terzigno. Seasons become accomplices to the rest of the production process: salting in Summer, with its generous temperatures, triggers the fermentation of the anchovies that, mashed by the stones’ weight and by the salt’s action, slowly release an amber liquid to the surface, leaving their solid component on the bottom.

Months pass and the liquid grows, gradually browning. Giulio allows me to snoop into the 70-year-old terzigni, while pointing out the different stages of maturation of what cannot, yet, be defined as colatura. At least two more Springs have to pass before the liquid retraces its path: poking the bottom of the barrel with a corkscrew key (vriale) will promote the descent of the fluid through the layers of fish and salt, further flavoring it and finally filtering it. Drop after drop, colatura is collected.To close the circle, what remains of the fish, now plundered of its essences, goes back to the sea to become feed in aquacultures.

It is impossible at this point to ignore the connection to the Roman garum so dear to Apicius. Sure, but if you let Giulio tell the history of this incredibly versatile flavor infusion, he would trace it back to the second half of the XIII century. It is thanks to the proverbial and accidental monastic luck in food preservation that colatura, originally the by-product of fish stored in forgotten salt-filled barrells, was born. And we, gratefully, thank both the absentmindedness of the Cistercian monks of the Amalfi hills and those devote fishermen who, homaging the clerics, begat a food surplus in the monasteries’ pantries which was crucial to light the fuse of their creative techniques.

Speaking of versatility, if I were to hazard a comparison, I would relate the colatura to monosodic glutamate, yet without the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’s psychosis lurking. Umami, iodiny. To be used in deliciously simple recipes such as spaghetti – but the Gragnano ones, and rehydrated in unsalted water – with EVOO, garlic and parsley, or steamed vegetables (Giulio suggests potatoes and aromatic herbs), or even on fish itself. Something bolder? O’ sang ‘e Maria, the Cetarese version of a Bloody Mary created by chef Pasquale Torrente from Il Convento, where colatura replaces salt, would be an emblematic example. Here are some tips that you will not find on the label: how to better preserve it, for example. Giulio docet, rule #1: outside the fridge. And don’t turn up your nose if within some weeks the colatura will brown, turning to a mahogany shade. It’s the oxidation process that – how lucky – not only doesn’t spoil the product, but enriches its flavour with further depht and longevity of taste . Once it’s opened, you can throw away the supplied cap: an unpeeled garlic clove or an oregano sprig will work even better. Herein I didn’t say everything: for instance how Giulio is a natural born communicator, how dedicated he is to his work, or how infectiuos his humor is. But I can say this: from the 20th to the 24th of September you will find him in Turin for the Salone del Gusto.If I were you, I would drop in.

Nettuno

Corso Umberto I, 64 – 84010 Cetara (SA)

Tel: +39 089 261147

https://www.nettunocetara.it/index.html