As I sat in the Cafe this morning with my coffee bored with reading about the political machinations going on, not to form a new government, but only to try to agree a new President another headline caught my eye. There are 50% less swallows transiting Italy this year on their way north for the summer. It was basically a case of round up the usual suspects as to why this has happened
Climate change of course, global warming, insecticides on the hedgerows and intensive farming techniques that do away with hedges to create easily harvested fields. Only small mention was made of the fact that swallows nest on or near the ground in large numbers making them easy to net and with the rapidly growing population in Africa they are a very easy addition to the food table.
However my real thought on reading this was who counts them. Are there teams of watchers on the coast counting birds as they fly over with little clickers like the cabin crew have on board aircraft ? Anyway for those of you north of me down here in Puglia there are clearly not as many on their way this year. Let’s hope the bird counters are better at bird recognition than Ronnie Corbett.
I gave you a recipe for making limoncello the other day and have now been told in no uncertain terms by two Italian ladies that make it every year that no matter how old and authentic I thought my method was it is not how it is done here. . The lemon rind and the 95° alcohol go in the sealed container for 7 days and need to be shaken twice everyday. Then strained and the water and sugar added before bottling. So there it is .
The problem with making industrial quantities of limoncello as we tend to do is ending up with a pile of unclothed lemons looking rather lost. What to do with them is the question. Lemon jam seems to be the on line solution for most people but as someone who believes only Marmite goes on toast or bread that is not really an option. Lemon juice is a solution but what to make from the juice ? Well in 1967 I went with my sister on my last family holiday with my parents to Kyrenia in Cyprus ( now Northern Cyprus) . My father at the time was not only flying the famous Comet 4B passenger aeroplane
but was also in his management capacity responsible for where the flight crew rested their weary heads on all Comet routes. In the summer months Nicosia was considered too hot for the crews and they moved to Kyrenia to The Dome Hotel but there were other choices which the hotel clearly knew. I was now of drinking age and accompanied him to the Dome bar. Not one to take these extra responsibilities too seriously he said to the head barman as he ordered two brandy sours ” there is a rumour in flight crew that you no longer put brandy in the brandy sours”. The drinks arrived and then a complimentary second round from the now smiling barman. The rest of the evening floated by in a blur for me though at some stage I ended up in the pool. But even a massive shot of brandy didn’t stop me appreciating the drink. In 2007 I returned to the Dome to see if they still made them. The bar had changed not one iota and the brandy sours were as good as I remember them though I have to say somewhat hazily.
So a good brandy sour is :
A slug of cheap brandy ( we are lucky being a wine producing country that there is brandy lake of cheap stuff here)
A half slug of lemon juice
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Stir and top up with soda and ice.
We freeze our lemon juice in ice-cube containers and then add it to the drink
Now we chatted about dialects yesterday and the most famous dialect in Italy must be the Napoletana from Naples as so many songs have been written in it. Most of us can recognise the tune as the Neopolitans were big migrants and took their songs with them especially to America where the songs became English standards. This one has an interesting history.
This song started life as an advertising jingle in 1880 to promote the new funicular railway up Mount Vesuvius that replaced porters who used to carry tourists on chairs to the top to view it. In 1888 Thomas Cook bought it and operated it despite eruptions in 1906, 1911 and 1928. In 1929 Cooks sold the railway and it was then operated until 1943 when under the then control of the allied forces the mountain again erupted and destroyed the railway completely. In 1988 a new tender was awarded to build a new line but worked stopped in 1991 and has never restarted.