To market today and the veg area was teeming with tomatoes ( pomodori) in case after case. This week is salsa week when Pugliese families make their years supply of passata the tomato sauce that forms the base of almost all the pasta dishes and indeed almost every other dish down here.
It is an huge job and I will be giving a hand down the road tomorrow in the making of it which as you will see then is an exercise of almost industrial size. Today ,however, in the market people were buying a couple of hundred kilos of tomatoes. The traffic was chaotic as nobody wanted to park more than a few feet from the market stall where the toms were. The policeman on traffic duty nearby had sensibly decided he had other duties to attend to today and had disappeared so it was a free for all. Interspersed with the trolley loads of tomatoes being loaded into the backs of beaten up old Fiats were loads of Brits who clearly had not read my advice to leave the kids by the pool. The poor things trudged around as parents pointed out the joy of dried oregano and huge barrels full of olives . About a third of the market stalls were not there as the summer holiday gets into full swing, luckily my lupini guy was.
Our tomatoes were picked last Monday some 300 kilos of them
and last night we had our tomato pickers dinner
The wine flowed a little too freely and I am glad the salsa making was delayed by a day rather than the planned 6 a.m. start this morning. The treat last night were snails (lumache) which are highly prized down here and cost the earth. €25 a kilo to buy in the market but these were collected on Pepe’s farm
I remember eating winkles as a child on the pier at Exemouth in Devon and these snails are about the same size and you extract them with a toothpick if you are being polite or suck with all your might and slurp very noisily the juices and the snail from its hidey hole. It will not surprise you to know that the two options divide by gender down here and no prizes for choosing which sex performs which method !
Every field around our house is now full of tomato pickers busy collecting the crop. Our local farmer Salvatore uses family members for his team. He sits on the tractor and issues instructions and directions to all of his extended family group . He clearly has read all the management books and like me believes in the adage “delegation is the art of fine management”. Larger farms bring in labour from near Brindisi. They are Romanians, Albanians and a few African and Indian illegals. They are bused up each morning at some ungodly hour and bused back as the sunsets at about 8 p..m. with some euros stuffed into their pockets.
The autostrada to Napoli is now nose to tail with large rather old trucks carrying tons and tons of tomatoes to the canning factories over there. So those lovely Naples tomatoes you buy in the shops around the world are really Pugliese. Not a time to decide to take in Sorrento from here as they crawl up every slight incline on the way there and roar back with no load on the way home. They will go past the scene of the terrible coach crash at the weekend. It seems they now think the bus brakes failed due to a burst air conditioning pipe but it seems the autostrada built over 40 years ago hadn’t upgraded its crash barriers since 1988 and they were designed to prevent a car at 80 KPH going through into the ravine. The new stipulation for stronger barriers passed in 2004 had yet to be implemented.
I have to say by the end of this week I will have grown quite tired of tomatoes and am quite pleased to be getting on with the serious job of enjoying the August holiday month. Little or no work is done and even our local bar owners take some time off and head south to the heel where they have a family home right on the coast.
The bar doesn’t close of course and it is full from morn till night with workmen enjoying their month off. Every restaurant has a queue outside each night and so the work we put in during the winter sitting in the chilly place eating pays off as we can normally get a table breezing past the disorderly ( it is Italy) queue to be seated by a frazzled owner who only smiles at the end of the evening when she/he looks at the till overflowing with euros and a till roll with just three items listed for the whole evening. Ah the wonders of the black economy.