I would rather eat a fresh baked piece of bread than just about anything. To tell the truth, I could eat an entire loaf if left to my vices. For Italian bread lovers there is focaccia, ciabatta, pizza. FCP. I love it all. Italian rustic bread with olives and rosemary, bring it on. In Florence I was first introduced to Ribollita, day old bread covered in a tuscan vegetable soup (reboiled day old soup). Italy is famous for using day old bread/ no salt bread, in their dishes and I was curious about this. In one of the most popular places for cuisine on earth, recipes have developed from a history of malnutrition and hunger. During the war, the working class lived on what they could gain from their meager rations and gather from the land.
The cookbook, Cucina Povera, by Pamela Sheldon Johns, tells the story of Tuscan peasant cooking. Simple dishes inspired from fresh seasonal ingredients, cooking and eating in season. It is also a history book and picture book. Traveling throughout Italy Johns interviews older people to see how they managed during hard times. They tell heart warming stories and share their recipes and how they cook and how their parents cooked in days gone by. The photographs capture the Tuscan countryside, the families, and the prepared dishes. Most of these men and women ate bread that was baked in the community forno (furnace/oven) once a week. Salt, which was highly taxed, was too expensive to use in bread. It was needed for curing meat and making cheese, not making bread. Bread made without salt quickly dries out, because the salt holds in the moisture. Nothing was wasted, so dishes prepared including dried out bread were essential for survival. From these facts classic Italian recipes were born. Panzanella anyone? Bread salad made from day old bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olive oil and basil. I can not wait!
Pamela Sheldon Johns, the author of Cucina Povera, owns a bed and breakfast (I wanted to write Bread and Breakfast) called Agriturismo (Farmhouse) Poggio Etrusco and teaches cooking classes there. It is located outside Montepulciano, Italy where I am going to a language school. I will not have a car while I am there and did not know about this place when I made my arrangements for the school, otherwise I truly would have considered staying there. She speaks very highly of the village cobbler, Virio Neri and he speaks highly of his mother’s cooking. These are pictures of Montepulciano, where I will be living for almost a month.
Notice the guy on the roof that looks like Pinocchio? I wonder if that is who he is? Pinocchio can be found in full glory all around Florence. So maybe he is here too?
Carlo Collodi, the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini, was born in Florence, Italy in 1826. He wrote de Avventures di Pinocchio. (Italian spelling). It was published in a weekly newspaper written for children called, Il Giornale per i Bambini. In the early versions of Pinocchio, Pinocchio was made of bread, not wood, and at the end of the story he was hung. A little radical for a children’s fairy tale. So the story was re-written and Pinocchio was fashioned from a piece of wood and taken care of by the carpenter/woodcarver, Geppetto. As we all know reading Pinocchio, all he wanted was to be a real boy and go to school. Well we know his nose grows when he lies too. I think all Pinocchio wanted was to be a real boy and EAT bread and pizza. I am going to try to find Mr. Neri, in Montepulciano. After all, he is the carpenter of Montepulciano and he cooks.