Our neighbours ( they of the grandchildren from hell fame ) have been up since 6 a.m. making passata the tomato sauce so loved by Italians and down here in Puglia very often made by hand.
My water man Mario told me yesterday that he too would be up this morning doing the same with his family.
Regulars will know that I did my bit last year and by the end of the day the last thing I wanted to ever see again was a ruddy tomato . It is a lengthy process done mainly by hand and if you are like me you end covered in the stuff to boot.
This is the finished article prior to bottling.
With the crisis still on going more Italians are doing it themselves and in the market you can buy boxes of toms for a few Euros. It is probably no bad thing as the TV the other night was uncovering yet another passata scandal where nasty shippers were sending Italian toms to China and bottling so called “Italian Made ” passata with all kinds of nasty substitute ingredients before shipping it back here for sale.
Certainly the Italians around us eat tonnes of the stuff. Last year I helped make 260 bottles of the stuff for a family of four though to be fair only one, the head of the house, really eats lots of it.
My waterman was also going for the 250 mark today. The neighbour is more restrained and only makes enough to have each Sunday. The rest of the week he is buying store sold stuff so needs to be careful now about where it really came from.
Like most Italians down here the cats get the leftovers from the table as their staple diet and my neighbour has two of them. Their bowl is by the driveway so each day I can tell you what Maria and Giovanni had for lunch and as I walk in the early morning what they had for supper.
House guests are always amazed at what Italian cats will eat. Most guests who have cats in the USA or UK feed their little darlings a range of expensive cat food bordering on the luxurious. One strict rule seems to be that they never ever feed their cats chicken bones so it is with amazement they watch the cats here chomping down bone after bone as part of their diet. One house guest tried to drag the bowl away from the cat afraid that it would choke and nearly got a bite for his troubles.
I can tell you that everyday at lunchtime Giovanni and his wife eat a type of pasta ( mainly short pasta in the South of Italy) passata, tomatoes and bread. For their evening repast they eat um well um pasta, passata, tomatoes and bread. I think perhaps twice in their normal stay here of 3 months do they tackle a piece of meat but in the main they live on this diet. Healthwise I am sure it is really good for you but the repetition of it day after day would drive me mad.
At the house where I made the stuff last year the head of the house has never in his 50 years not had pasta every lunchtime every day of every month of every year though his sugo is made with meat as a base. Again the monotony is to me incredible.
When I first went to work in Washington D.C. I went at lunchtime to the local sandwich shop just around the corner to get a sandwich. ” Next” yelled the busy guy and I moved forward . I peered at the board to make my choice. Ham I said ” Hold it buddy ” he said “bread first ,wholemeal, rye, white, brown ” I hesitated er wholemeal and ham I tried again. ” Butter , mayo, mustard ” er um er. ” Okay buddy I don’t have time for this get your goddam act together and when you’re ready get back in line and start again. Now next” and I was supplanted from the line. I went back to the office sandwichless and sat at my desk and wrote my order.Domestic ham and foreign cheese on wholemeal with mayo, tomatoes easy on the lettuce heavy on the cucumber. With my script I returned and when shouted at rattled off the order and got my first huge American sandwich. I stayed with that order for the two years I was based there petrified to change it. It wasn’t till I was leaving that I dared to to say to the guy that actually his foreign was my domestic and his domestic was my foreign because I was British. He didn’t get the humour I have to report.
Anyway it seems I am not alone. Throughout Italy in various places where illegal immigrants are being housed in Hotels or camps there have been in the past few weeks food riots.
The illegals are protesting the “boring” Italian diet. All we get they say is pasta tomatoes and bread. We want decent food from our own countries. There has been some reaction to this as you can imagine . Italians are understandably a little upset that having lifted these people out of the sea and saved many from drowning they in turn are critical of the diet here. Giovanni would certainly consider himself in heaven if he could eat for free what he pays for and cooks at his own house everyday.