Happy holiday from the blistered one. Today is ferragosto a holiday that is celebrated here in Puglia by Italians flocking out to their own or someones house in the country , lighting a wood fire oven and cooking industrial quantities of meat on funeral pyre sized bales of twigs that they collected and dried when they pruned their olive trees way back in April. These are stuffed whole into the oven and lit. Others follow dependent on the kilos of meat being cooked. Forget the Mediterranean diet and all that you hear about that style of eating, this is carnivore time in a big way.
The go out to the country idea was invented by the Fascists in the early 1930s to garner popularity with the what was then peasantry working the lands throughout Italy. They laid on day trips to allow workers to get to see the seaside which the majority had never done. They were hugely successful and Mussolini was able to seize control of parliament.
Today, of course, we don’t need such niceties. Just an octogenarian President working hand in glove with Brussels ( Mrs Merkel) who to date has placed three unelected Prime Ministers into power with no effect on the problems . At least with Mussolini we got an holiday at the beach out of it and the trains ran on time.
The local paper this morning has an harrowing story written by a reporter who sat yesterday in the call centre that handles phone calls from olive growers in the Salento region. He reports that of the 10 million trees in the region 2.5 million are now infected by the disease.
If a grower suspects that he has an infected tree he calls the centre and they dispatch someone to do tests and confirm or deny it. The phone centre is incredibly busy he says with calls coming in from morning till late a night. The callers are very worried people the disease keeps spreading and more and more of them are being affected by it. They are hopeful when they call he says, maybe it is a touch of drought they ask or maybe just the tree often thousands of years old has given up and simply died. Unfortunately the people in the call centre have to break to the grower as gently as they can that in 99% of cases it is going to be the disease and their olive growing days are over. It is more like a call centre set up after a disaster with relatives calling about loved ones that might have been involved. That is how most of the growers feel about their product.
It isn’t Puglia’s year this year. Yesterday nine mayors from the areas surrounding Bari filed for tens of millions of euros compensation from the Puglian government. The region around Bari is famous for its uva di tavola ( table grapes for eating). Mildew the bane of most grape growers has struck the area. Mildew a killer vine disease strikes after periods of heavy rain and cold winds is followed by short periods of sunshine and heat which sums up this so called summer. 50% of the crop has failed because of it and the mayors are claiming that weather is a natural phenomenon and so have put in their claim which follows the one they placed earlier in the year for the lost cherry crop. Quite where Puglia finds that kind of money I have no idea, nor do I suspect do they, but no doubt the EU will do something in the end. Let’s hope they put it in the in box for the time being and start to really focus on the problem in Salento.
Well I’m off to stack wood into my outside wood stove and hours after the Italians have sat in 30C+ temperatures eating lunch while sweating buckets we will eat as a cool evening wind fans the table. Never understood this lunch thing in high summer.