The recession has had it’s effect on our local festa which kicks off next Friday. Gone is the Saturday dance with a band and gone is the big name act to close the festa on Sunday night. Instead in comes an accordion played and a sax player with a load of electronics for Sunday only. Devastating stuff for us pizzica dancers and sliders. The slide is a local dance whose steps I have yet to master but makes everyone look like a lounge lizard slithering around the dance floor. I have it on good authority that the mobile bars and food sellers will be in attendance on Saturday night even though the crowds will not. On Sunday the procession will bring the large statue of the Madonna with it’s team of carriers up past our house for the first time . We will no doubt meet it on it’s way up to us as we make our way down to the nearest mobile bar to await their return.
I asked an Italian friend the other day what is the difference between a festa and a sagra. Look them up in the dictionary and they both mean festival. Easy peasy he said or that is my rough translation ” a festa is a religious festival and a sagra isn’t”. At last I thought a definitive explanation. It is quite rare in Italian.
So imagine my surprise when I see today an ad for a sagra at the convent of the Madonna run by the nuns. It is something you learn as you try to understand Italian that rules aren’t ever rules. You get a single sheet that explains the rules of say pronouns and then after you have learnt them you get given a book of about 100 pages in length giving you all the exceptions to the rules.
August is sagra month and almost every town has at least three during this period. Italians might, 30 years ago, have spent most of their time heading to and from Church and the confessional but now the sagra fulfills their other focus of worship namely food.
There are sagre for focaccia, for bruschetta, for frese, for orecchiette , for sceblasti ( don’t ask) and further down in Salento loads of sagre featuring greek food showing off the Greek heritage down there.
Grotaglie just near us here has a sagra orecchiette on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. It features 10 top chefs from restaurants in Puglia ( 3 with Michelin stars) and 8 regional wine growers. There is food tasting wine tasting for a small charge and then dancing etc. They get thousands of tourists from the north of Italy mainly and it helps the pottery sales ( their only business) . We shall be there on Tuesday evening .
If ever I doubted the Italian love of food there was a story in the paper this morning that re-enforced it. Tourists from the north were staying in a trullo for their two week holiday in Alberobello ( the trulli town) . Last friday they bought some lamb for supper . Now Puglian lamb is considered very special as we feed our lambs with straw rather then lush grass and the taste is very different. So when the lamb is almost done she decided to have a few crafty mouthfuls before hubby gets to tuck in. But starts to choke on pieces caught in her throat. They set off to hospital and the nearest Emergency room 15 miles away in Monopoli. However there was no Doctor on duty only a nurse so they were sent on to Bari some 30 miles further on. At Bari they told the couple they needed a throat clinic and sent them on again back towards Monopoli and finally at 4 a.m. three pieces of meat are removed from her throat by a private Ear Nose and Throat clinic. Now as you can imagine the real purpose of the story in the paper is to highlight the health care failings and the head of Puglia healthcare is now on the rack for it but busy blaming the new triage system that Rome has forced on the hospitals. However I was intrigued by her reply when phoned by the journalist to the question what happened to the joint of lamb ? Well she said we were quite late home from the clinic , maybe 5 a.m. and we didn’t feel like it then but we have just had it for lunch and we both loved it so much we have eaten it all !!!