Today is Ferragosto which I talked about in an earlier post. At around 1 p.m. the noise of traffic racing to get to lunch dates faded as woodsmoke began to appear from all the outside ovens and at 2 p.m. Italy almost to a person sat down to eat.
We had had our Ferragusto last night and it turned out to be an inspired decision by our host as today is cloudy, overcast and very very windy. Too warm to sit inside comfortably but too windy to really enjoy an outside meal unless you like leaves and dust in your food.
As the jostling for places at the table took place I wrongly assumed the men to be making their way to my end of the table but in fact the pack leader who is something big in the weekly market hierarchy ( yes best not to ask too closely into that) suddenly grabbed the top of the table seat at the other end. Whilst the other men scrambled back to the other end I stayed and found myself sitting opposite the two grandmothers. They are sisters in law but one stayed here and has lived near Martina Franca all her life the other with her new husband left in 1963 to find a new life in Turin. Hubby died a few years back but she has continued to come down for Ferragosto.
Sitting alongside her was another emigre who had left with her parents to go to France to work and still speaks Italian with quite an heavy french accent. My Torinese grandmother spoke beautifully clear Italian as did the French speaking lady. It was a joy to listen to and I actually understood almost all that was said unlike when sitting with the men with their mix of dialect and mumbled Italian.
My two grandmothers kept me entertained with stories of their youth growing up in Puglia in the 50’s and the food etc they had then. I realised that really someone should be writing these memories and as importantly their recipes down.
There is a website in the USA Cooking with Nonna that gets Grandmothers of Italian extraction to do their recipes on film. Someone should really start something here as well.
I learnt how to make water melon jam and then we moved on to cures for various ills that they still use. The one that caught my attention was hot water extract of fresh olive tree leaves. The olive is well known for it’s curative properties but I had never heard about using leaves. do look at Ezekiel 47:12 ( I’ve always wanted to throw that into a conversation haven’t you? You feel a sense of one upmanship !!)
It is in fact for high blood pressure and looking today online they are not joking it can take blood pressure down considerably. In fact I am already gathering leaves to start trying it.
They were such great company we have invited them for Sunday lunch though quite what they will think of our Italian cooking who knows.
I would now be playing you Nonna Mia but my internet signal is so weak with all these people out in the country side today using phones etc I cannot manage to download it.
I have lost you all three times writing this so will quickly publish and we can chat tomorrow.