martedì 8 marzo 2011
Wine, women, song ... and pork products
How intriguing that International Women’s Day and Mardi Gras collide on the same day, which is today. Perhaps it will give women extra license to eat, drink, and be merry: but shouldn’t we be doing that the other 354 days of the year? And shouldn’t we also be celebrated as female beings the rest of the year?
Today also marks the feast day of an obscure saint called S. Giovanni di Dio (St. John of God). It's also the 67th anniversary of the deportation of Florentine Jews to Mathausen: a plaque at the train station Santa Maria Novella (at the bottom of track 6) memorializes this. Today a special ceremony happens at the station, and both the mayor of Florence and the mayor of Mathausen, along with a survivor from the camp, are unveiling a new plaque.
How to involve the puppers in these Women’s Day/Mardi Gras celebrations? How to teach Lulu, Rosie, Lizzie, and Wilma about celebrating themselves as the bitches that they are? How to tell Buster that on this day he can let his natural exuberance exude even more? How to tell Harry that he can maraud even more than he usually does? What special treats can we give the three adult dogs? (The Puppers will continue on a restricted diet ‘til they’re a little bit older). Should we instruct Harry and Buster to bring bouquets of mimosa (yellow flowers that are traditionally given to women on this day) to the girls, or should we tell them to ignore this somewhat patronizing habit?
International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911, and it was originally a socialist holiday. Mardi Gras’s precedents date to ancient Roman times –such feasting and excess occurred on the Saturnalia, followed by the Baccanalia, and then, finally, the Lupercalia in February which, according to Carol Fields, priests, “called luperci, offered up two goats and a dog, animals known for lusty sexual appetites, smeared their own foreheads with blood from the sacrificial knife, burst into uproarious laughter, and ran naked through the streets snapping goat thongs at women to call forth fertility.”
This is alarming on so, so many levels. Though we have six potential sacrificial victims on hand, we won’t venture there. Isn’t it also alarming, visually speaking? NAKED PRIESTS? (However, it's all too easily imaginable to picture Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi doing this: an outdoor bunga bunga party!)
Often on this day in the United States, we eat pancakes or doughnuts. In Tuscany, cenci (rags), a delicious sugared dough which is either fried or baked (there are two very strong schools of thought re: which is the True Way), appear several weeks before Ash Wednesday. They will disappear at day’s end, not to return 'til next year.
Fields continues: “Carnival in Italy is still a time when anyone who is hungry eats … At Carnival people eat everything left in the larder, but they also dip into fresh sausages and meat …”
Tonight we do not offer up a sacrificial pup, nor do we run around naked with goat thongs … but we are eating sausage. I’ll make it while channeling Helen Reddy singing “I am Woman.”
(No, I will not.)
Penne con salsiccia, olive, e rape/Penne with sausage, olives, and broccoli rabe
3 T. extravirgin olive oil, plus more for dribbling
1 red onion, halved, then thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. pancetta, chopped
2 pork sausages, about 1/2 lb., removed from casings
2-3 hot peppers, stemmed, and minced
About 2 lbs. broccoli rabe, tough ends removed, chopped – you should end up with close to a pound
½ c. black olives, pitted and chopped
200 gr. penne/scant ½ lb. penne
Freshly-cracked black pepper
2 bottles of wine
Bring a large pot of water to a boil (you can add salt if you want). Put the rabe on a steamer tray, making sure that the water subsumes it. Let it return to a boil, and let bubble away for about 5 minutes. When tender, remove the steamer, and reserve.
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put the olive oil in a saucepan on a medium flame. Add the onion, and stir ‘til it’s slightly colored. Add the garlic, hot peppers, and pancetta. Do not let the garlic brown.
Toss in the uncased sausage, using a wooden spoon to break it up. You might have a greasy mess in the pan once both pork products have cooked through, and you might want to drain a tablespoon or two away. Or not: remember, it’s Fat Tuesday (and the Pecorino Romano will help absorb all that fat).
Put the reserved rabe and sausage in a pasta bowl, and add the olives.
Cook the penne according to package instructions; drain in a colander. Add the cooked penne to the mix, and taste for seasoning. You probably won’t need to add more salt, but be vigorous with the cracked black pepper. If it’s dry (which seems hardly possible), give it a jolt or two of extravirgin olive oil.
Serves two. The two bottles of wine? It’s Mardi Gras, and you don’t have to drink all of the second bottle.
St. Giovanni di Dio (b. Portugal 8 March 1495, d. Spain 8 March 1550), apparently lived a life of adventure as a military man, but was hospitalized due to eccessive religious fervor (imagine how fervent he must have been, while keeping in mind that Catherine of Siena, among many a medieval nutter, was never hospitalized. Puts “eccessive religious fervor” into new perspective, what ho?). He was later released, founded a hospital in Granada, and is the patron saint of nurses, doctors, hospitals, cardiologists, among others(www.santiebeati.it).
International Women’s Day: It’s a common misconception that this day commemorates the 146 women who either died of smoke inhalation or jumped to their deaths at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. It doesn’t. That terrible fire happened several days later on March 25, 1911.
Carol Fields, Celebrating Italy, New York, 1990. The recipes she includes for Carnival festivities include a scrumptious-sounding “Fricandò” from Ivrea, which translates to “Spareribs and Sausages Braised with Wine Vinegar.” She, too, raises the Catherine de’Medici issue: “Some say another dish with the same French-sounding name went to France with Catherine de’Medici and then made its way back to Milan and Piedmont at the end of the 18th century. Others insist that it was brought by Hagy, Napoleon’s omnipresent Egyptian cook, who opened a restaurant in Milan when the emperor’s fortunes went into decline.”
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