Pontelandolfo Featured on RAI TV!

On Sunday, March 5, 2017, something fabulous happened in Pontelandolfo. The national television channel, RAIUNO, broadcast the 11:00 AM mass live from one of the most beautiful churches in the province of Benevento –  Parish S.S. Salvatore of Pontelandolfo Chiesa Madre.  The church, built in a Romanesque style, heralds back to before 1500.  Completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1688, the church was then rebuilt ten years later in a Baroque style. This is the church my grandparents were married in and my aunts and uncles were baptized in.  It is truly magnificent and deserves to be seen by the world.

Archbishop March 2017 Ponte

Mass was officiated by the new Archbishop Monsignor Felice Accrocca.

Pontelandolfo News  published the formal announcement from our parish priest, Rev. Don Giusseppe Girardi and our mayor, Il Sindaco, Dott. Gianfranco Rinaldi.  My heart filled as I read the announcement.  It reminded me just how many of us left this village in the Sannio hills.

“Sarà un momento unico e irripetibile che ci permetterà di entrare nelle case di tutti, in particolare in quelle dei nostri fratelli emigrati in terre lontane, per stare ancora più vicini agli anziani e agli ammalati.”

“It will be a unique and unrepeatable moment that will allow us to enter the homes of all, in particular in those of our brothers who emigrated to distant lands, to be even closer to the elderly and the sick. “

The WhatsApp texts and e-mails started flooding my in box.  The mayor sent me a notice, my friend Nicola sent me pictures of the crews setting up an incredible collection of cameras in the sanctuary.  My favorite florists Nella and Fabio were up to their elbows in flowers.  My family urged me to grab a plane and get back.  I sadly missed the mass but thanks to the RAI application on my iPad.  I was able to get up at 4:30 AM and watch the program live.

Rai Pix

Pontelandolfese filled the church.

To me – with my public relations hat on – the opening of the broadcast was the best thing that could have happened to Pontelandolfo.   Before Mass, RAI, presented an overview of the village.  It featured the mountain scenery that daily takes my breath away, our iconic medieval tower and other points of interests.

I don’t know how long the link will be live so click on it and see why I return to spend months at a time in Pontelandolfo.

RAI 1 in Pontelandolfo

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Multa – Ancora!!! NO More Tickets!

Son of a &*^%(!  ONCE AGAIN our Fiat 500 L got a ticket.  Notice, I said the car got the ticket – not my Indy 500 wanna be speed demon husband.  Tickets are mailed to you two or three months after you zoom by an autovelox. Traffic cameras, autovelox, – which are bloody everywhere – clock your speed and grab your license plate number.  The autovelox, however, are not sneaky, smarmy cameras.  These are blatant speed traps. There are signs announcing them and most GPS devices have them listed. Beware of –

autovelox

Now, I don’t know where the car was out by itself speeding – because obviously no one in MY FAMILY would speed on an Italian road.  Or not see the SIGN.  The tickets come in the mail and you pay the fine at the ufficio postale.  This is the third one we have been SURPRISED to get.  The tickets go to the car – that is to the the person to whom the car is registered.  The car is in my name.  Hmmmmmmmmm.

Yikes, what if you are driving a rental?  The ticket gets mailed to the rental agency and then the rental agency – a few weeks or in our case months later – charges your credit card.  Watch out for that – because we also discovered that you can be charged and not have been driving the car that day.  Always ask to see the ticket and demand to know the date and time.

Here are some – Don’t get a ticket – hints.

speed-sign
My favorite Italian Attorney, Rossella Mancini, filled Jack and me in on the speed limits law – JACK memorize this –
The general speed limits are as follows (this is only valid for cars. The limits are different for trucks, buses and agricultural vehicles):
-130 Km / h on motorways, which are reduced to 110 in case of rain or poor visibility;
-110 Km / h on main roads outside urban areas (the ones with 2 lanes in each direction) which reduced to 90 in case of rain or poor visibility;
– 90 km / h on secondary rural roads (they are those with one lane in each direction);
– 50 km / h in built-up area (which can be the smallest of villages perched on the highway.)
lower or upper speed limits may be imposed in the presence of suitable signals present on the roads.
Thanks Rosella!  I am posting this in our car.

The speed on the local roads changes randomly.  Sta attento!  Pay attention to the signs!  We noticed that where the roads need repairs – and that is a lot of roads in a lot of places- the town, region or province merely lowers the speed limit on that road. Whoops, we’ve got a giant pothole – lets just lower the speed limit and go for a coffee.  The road washed away in the last flood, lets put up some orange plastic tape to narrow it down to one lane and reduce the speed limit.  A lot of Italian roads are in deplorable condition – not the Autostrada or the main roads but the local roads.  Lack of funds that has caused this situation.  The speed limits are posted so don’t drive and daydream about lunch.

If you are zooming along and suddenly all the cars in front of you slam on their brakes, slam on yours.    All locals know where the autovelox cameras are and slam on the brakes to drive 5-10 miles below the posted speed.  The slowdown lasts for a few hundred feet beyond the autovelox and then zooooooom the cars race off again. Since Italians always slow down for these camera boxes, drive like an Italian.

traffic-italy-sign

These signs are easy to miss!

Beware of Zona Traffico Limitato.  ZTL is a Limited Traffic Zone.  We are familiar with the one in Alghero, Sardinia.  In the historic center the roads are incredibly narrow and full of tourists. Driving there is limited to very few taxis and residents with stickers.  Hours may or may not be posted on the signs too.  Between posted hours cars are forbidden access to the ZTL. What will make you crazy is that all cities do not have the same rules.  If you are driving to a new city or village, take the time to look at a local map.   Car driving can cost you your vacation savings. Traffic cameras are everywhere and take a picture of your license plate. As I said earlier, the rental company will get the ticket and will forward the expense on to you. Probably with a service fee.  Do NOT drive in a ZTL.  Park outside the zone and walk in.  On foot you see more anyway and meet all kinds of interesting folks. If you are staying in a B&B or hotel in the ZTL and have a car – ask them what to do.  Some hotels can issue a temporary pass.  The fine is huge!  Better to spend that money on great olive oil to bring back.

2017 – new rules – Highway Code in 2017

Don’t text, talk or play with your cell phone!  Italians can now loose their licenses if caught.  The fines are incredibly steep – 161 euro to 646 euro!  Now that is one hell of a ticket.

Our Fiat 500 L misses us and we will soon be back driving around Pontelandolfo.  Since I don’t want my insurance to become so astronomical that I can’t afford to go out to dinner, I will become the car nag.  My nagging will be done with love….

Ci vediamo!

Categories: Practical Matters - Living Abroad, Travel Comments | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

E Fuori Nevica! Repeat Performances

Bravo!  This February 12th, Forum Giovani di Pontelandolfo produced E Fuori Nevica!  The young actors had only planned on one performance – wrong!  The show was so well recieved that an encore performance is being presented stasera, tonight, Friday, February 24, 2017.

valerio-play-poster

2’nd Chance to See the Play!

Enthusiasm for the actors, the play and the project has moved beyond the boundaries of Pontelandolfo.  The play will also be touring to Casalduni and Fragnetto!    Whew – my enthusiasm is leaping ahead.  You’re probably wondering who, what, where…

WHO:  Forum Giovani di Pontelandolfo is the association of young adults that actively endeavors to bring culture, entertainment and a grand good time to the village.  Many of them were involved in the July, 2016 collaborative theatrical production of Sacro di Santa GiocondinaThe production was so well received and such a positive experience for the young thespians that they wanted to continue to bring quality theater to the community.

valerio-3-carmella

“It’s Snowing Outside” presented in Teatro San Rocco

The comedy deals with the familiar theme of family relationships and dealing with a handicapped sibling.  The characters include: the burgeoning musician, Enzo, played by Gennaro Santopietro; Cico, suffering from autism, played by Antonio Del Ciampo (President of the Forum); Giovanni Ruggiero plays Stefano, the brother with an excessive sense of responsibility; and Valerio Mancini (my handsome cousin in blue blazer) plays the notary.  Paola Corbo and Jonathan Moavero provided technical support.

WHAT:  E Fuori Nevica! by Vincenzo Salemme is the tale of three brothers thrust together by their mother’s death.  In order for the three men to inherit from mom, they had to live together .  That means three incredibly different personalities – including an autistic adult, obsessive, and bopper – find themselves in the same house.  The story is hilarious, touching and heartfelt. Author, Salemme, born in Bacoli, Province of Naples, is a familiar comedic actor and writer.  He worked with the prestigious company of Eduardo De Filippo and has written and starred in numerous films.  You might recognize him from the RAI series Da Nord a Sud… e ho detto tutto!

valerio-play-2

WHERE:   The City Council granted Forum Giovani free use of sala-teatro Papa Giovanni Paolo.  The multi purpose room is behind Chiesa San Rocco on Via San Rocco.

I am in New Jersey and this is happening tonight in Pontelandolfo!  ERRRRRRRRG.

Ci vediamo.

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pronounce Those Endings!

Hmm, I wonder where the forks are?  “Dove sono le forchett….”  Le forchettE sono lì.   LE FORCHETTE!  Errrrrr how embarrassing to have my pronunciation corrected by a five year old in a fancy hotel breakfast room.  Of course we were in Tuscana the birth place of the Italian language.  Learning Italian has been challenging for me. It has also provided the entire village of Pontelandolfo with comic relief.  From school children to shopkeepers to old men playing scopa – everyone corrects me and giggles.  Some also roll their eyes and wander why they have to repeat a word 5 million times in order for me to remember it.  Yes, it does take a village to teach this old dog new tricks.  Hmm, that adage, “You Can’t Teach an Old Dogs New Tricks,” has really never resonated with me.

First of all – DEFINE OLD!  Go on – I dare you.  Secondly, learning a new language keeps the brain young and active.  Thirdly – well – I started to learn Italian when I was 50.  It has been 17 years and I’m still learning.  I hear you – why didn’t she listen to her grandmother?  Why didn’t she learn Italian as a child?  Why?  Because growing up in rural agrarian Somerset County, New Jersey I never heard Italian.

86950-PH-GFB1-034 Unlike the kids growing up in urban pockets of Italian families, I never heard Italian.  Not one of the five Italian families in Flagtown, New Jersey spoke Italian within my ear-shot.  My grandmother, aunts and uncles – all born in Italy – spoke unaccented standard American English.  I thought that was the norm.  I didn’t know that some kids grew up in duo-lingo Italian American families.  DUH!

When I was older I asked Zia Caterina why not one member of our family spoke Italian to us.  There were two reasons – one was survival.  They needed to assimilate to get jobs and not be picked on.  Aunt Cat recalled the taunts of dumb dago or wop and the smack she got on the head from her first teacher in Dundee Lake (Passaic County) because she had just arrived and didn’t understand English. Simple, they had to be American so they had to learn English. The second reason infuriates me.  I was born just after World War II – that period of time when Italian Americans were put in interment camps.  Yup, just like the Japanese.  Fear of Mussolini’s ties to Hitler and Fascism ignited the ignorant and Italian immigrants – many of whom had sons serving in the American military were whisked from their homes and locked up.  No one talks about it. Italo-Americano refer to it as  Una Storia Segreta – the Secret Story.  Italian Americans couldn’t have a wireless radio.  They had curfews. My Uncle Nick, who was too old to be naturalized with my grandparents, was threatened with deportation.

I’ve seen a few documentaries on this period and they incite me.  Today, when I hear politicians talk about opening up interment camps and building walls I wonder how many Americans know their history and understand what that means?  Not every person of a race or a religion is evil.  Hell, my family wasn’t evil.

enemy

My family took the signs to heart and “spoke American.”   Actually, they spoke English better than lots of folks I have known.  They were so good at it that Italian may be in my DNA but it isn’t embedded in my cervello. Studying Italian is a challenge that grounds me in my past and opens doors to new beginnings.  In New Jersey, I study with other Italophiles at Dorothea’s House in Princeton.  For total immersion in a fabulous ocean front city, I head to Alghero, Sardegna and Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera.

Learning the language has introduced me to parts of my heritage that I have embraced and history that has both saddened and intrigued me.  My Italian – as rough as it is –  has helped me research my family tree, become part of the fabric of the village and make new friends on both sides of the Atlantic.  I figure, I am not too old to learn and if I wasn’t learning and exploring my brain would turn to mush.

Ci Vediamo!

 

Categories: Practical Matters - Living Abroad | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Adventures in Church Archives

Paolo Collection 2 (38)

Whew, the holidays are over and those resolutions are racing around your brain.  A good number of my Italo-Americano pals have said that this year they are committed to researching their families.  I always say the same four words – call genealogist Rich Venezia!  He is cute, works hard and is Italian!  Rich and I were talking about some of our experiences doing research and decided that it was time to suggest that you go back to church – the parish churches of your ancestors.  Through the church archives in Pontelandolfo, I was able to trace my grandmother’s family back to the 1500s!!!  I had a little help from Antimo Albini (link to story)  who told me that the priests were responsible for census and wrote down incredibly interesting details about the parishioners.  My great – grandfather was a hunchback!  Who knew!  Let Rich Venezia tell you how to use the archives to find out more about your family.

richedit2Ciao a tutti!

I’ve been traveling all over these past few months, and Ms. Midge has also been quite busy herself!  Rumor has it her new hip is working just fine. I’m glad to be able to finally sit down and write for our third round of genealogy hints.

Midge asked me to write about church archives, and what a great topic it is! The records held by churches throughout Italy can trace your family back generations upon generations. The main question is access – do they still exist? Where are they held? Will the priest let you look through them?

After the Council of Trent in the 1560s, the pope required all Catholic churches to create registers of vital events in each parishioner’s life – births (baptisms), marriages, and deaths. From 1595 forward, after the papal proclamation (do it or else!), records should exist in most churches in Italy. Of course, there is the occasional fire, flood, or other act of God (see what I did there?) that would render the registers unavailable in present day.

In a lot of cases, these registers remain with the parish church of origin. Whether they are well-preserved in a church archives, stored in the priest’s attic, or tucked away in the sacristan’s garage will differ from parish to parish. Archdiocesan archives also exist, but what will be held at each of these archives will differ greatly: for instance, the archive of the Archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia in Sorrento only appears to have the church supplements (allegati) for marriages that occurred in that Archdiocese. In the archives of the Archdiocese of Vallo della Lucania, however, the only surviving records for one of my main ancestral churches – San Biagio in Matonti, Laureana Cilento – can be found. (I wish I’d known that before going to the church!) It’s important to know where the records are located before you head across the pond!

If you want to research in the parish registers of your town, do as much research as you can before you go. Genealogically, work backwards to the start of the civil registration records to find as many of your ancestors as you can. Technically, have a good software program to record further generations of ancestors efficiently and accurately.

If your ancestor was from a city – or even a big small town – there will be more than one parish church. How to find which one was your ancestor’s place of worship!? Start with the Italian vital records – stato civile. Between 1815 and 1865, there were two columns in the stato civile records – one column was for civil information, the other (right-hand) column for ecclesiastical. The ecclesiastical column will list the parish church in which the baptism or marriage occurred… and voila! You have your parish church. If your ancestor was born after 1865, look for their parents, or even grandparents, in stato civile records. Many families went to the same church for generations, unless they moved to un luogo faraway.   Here is an example –

orsola-giella-nata-1856_001Orsolo Giella – from Family History Library microfilm of Archvio di Stato di Avellino (has name of parish on the right-hand side – it’s the name of the town; there was only one parish at the time of her birth)

Practically, get in touch with the local priest in advance. While you could write to the church in the mail, I’d recommend getting in touch via email (when possible) or the local parish priest by phone (try to find his cell phone number).  If you can’t find a number or address for the church, try to get in touch with Town Hall. Someone there may be able to assist you in getting in touch with the priest. Many town websites include information about the parish.

As you can imagine, to do this, you’ll want to have advanced Italian language skills or a bi-lingual pal – both for the set-up of the meeting and the actual research process, too. (Most records are in Latin, but if you can’t communicate with the priest enough to let you in the door…) If you don’t have a relative or pal, I’d recommend hiring a local translator or guide. (Midge note – I know a few bi-lingual Pontelandolfese if you need someone.) This can also make it much easier when doing the research, as they can help you communicate with the priest and other town officials who you may come across during your local research. Perhaps you have cousins still living in your town? See if they can provide some assistance for you.

Note from Midge – We were lucky in Pontelandolfo that the church archive had been digitized by a parishioner!  It pays to nose around town – local bars are great places to uncover who is who – and ask if there is a local person who has taken on this task.  When I started my research, my Italian was basic Berlitz vacation guide at best.  Everyone was helpful and even sent around for someone to help me who spoke English.

I don’t recommend just showing up at the door of church and expecting to have good results. Especially in small southern towns, priests may work at two or more churches – which means it’s very likely your day in town will be their day in another town.

A very select number of parish records have been filmed by the Mormon Church, so it’s always worth a peek at familysearch.org to see if your town’s records have been filmed. (I see this mainly in Sicily and northern Italy.)

Note from Midge – I went to the link and discovered that they have records from Pontelandolfo!  I also found out that in East Brunswick, NJ Family Search had a Family History Center and I could have the microfiche sent there!  Thanks Rich!!!

Registri dello stato civile di Pontelandolfo (Benevento), 1809-1860

Format:  Manuscript/Manuscript on Film
Language: Italian
Publication: Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmati dalla Genealogical Society of Utah, 1989
Physical: in 11 bobine di microfilm ; 16 mm.

Getting access to these records isn’t always easy, but as you can imagine, the benefits can be very rewarding. Who doesn’t want their family tree traced back to 1595?!

For further information, you may want to look at the following article from ItalianGenealogy.com. (I am not associated with them in any way – I just think it’s a great and detailed article.)

I hope to see you in Italy!  Happy hunting!

Grazie Rich!  Ci vediamo!

Categories: Finding My Family | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

2017 – Villages Diverse But The Same

At the dawn of 2017, fireworks surrounded Pontelandolfo’s iconic tower!  Pontelandolfesi bundled up against the cold mountain air, hugged each other and cheered.  In Flagtown, New Jersey illegal fireworks boomed in back yards.  We peered out the window and cheered – nah three people cheering loudly wasn’t the same as being in a village surrounded by other cheering folks.

Version 2

Messages of good wishes whipped through cyber space.  WhatsApp and FaceBook Messenger made me feel like I was in that piazza shouting auguri!  That’s a big lie. What I was really doing was shouting *&^%$ every time the muscles in my left thigh did the “I’m gonna get you back now” flash of pain dance.  I came back to New Jersey and had my left hip replaced the week before Christmas.  By New Year’s Eve my brain and legs were functioning but my left leg was still really angry at me.  Having spent a few weeks lying around between physical therapy sessions, I really had a chance to think about my life and I had an epiphany.  The Village that is Pontelandolfo is incredibly similar to the Village that each of us creates to survive 21st century life with out nervous breakdowns.  Here are some examples –

Being a hospital scaredy cat, I was blessed to have a village of women friends who took shifts hanging out in the hospital with me. Providing Jack with an opportunity to dash out and a sense of safety for me.  Last year, when  Zia Vittoria was in the hospital in Benevento, Italia, her grandson, Nicola made sure that folks were lined up to visit and check in. We see that kind of neighbors helping neighbors not only in my precious Pontelandolfo but in all kinds of neighborhoods across the world.

During the holiday season, Pontelandolfesi rally creating cultural events that engage everyone.  Pontelandolfo’s crafters and artigianal foodies sell their wares at the two day holiday market.  Wait?! Don’t we have those in towns across America too?  We do.  It is an opportunity for the local folks to share their talents and make some money.  Musical, literary and theatrical events are scheduled in many Italian villages.  In the USA we dash to local productions of the Nutcracker, Scrooge and Handel’s Messiah.  Different and yet the same, people all over the world enjoy the culture of their holiday seasons.

I am a culture lover and sadly admit that my New Jersey hometown feels like a culture wasteland.  Possibly because we are so close to Philadelphia, Princeton and New York the community doesn’t organize many holiday cultural events beyond religious services. Sadly, I am not in the Sannio hills and am missing both Casalduni’s and Pontelandolfo’s La Befana celebrations.  I will bet that a quick google search will turn up a “Three Kings Day ” Celebration somewhere in New Jersey.

DSC00810

La Befana Celebration in Alghero, Sardinia.

Religious festivals, community picnics, community theatre, local musical groups, writer’s groups, book clubs, local dance companies – these things exist everywhere.  It doesn’t matter what religion someone is, what their native dress looks like, or what side of the ocean they live on, all of us enjoy belonging to and participating in community life.

May 2017 provide each and everyone of us with the village and sense of community we need.

Happy New Year !  Buon Anno!  Bonne Année!  新年快乐   Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!  

Gutes Neues Jahr!   あけましておめでとうございます    Feliz Año!       Šťastný nový rok!    

سال نو مبارک      С Новым Годом!    Feliz Ano Novo!    Gelukkige Nuwejaar!

Baci e abbracci!  Ci Vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 4 Comments

Transitions

It has been a month since you have heard from me.  Yikes? What have I been doing?  Well for the first week after the USA election I stayed in bed with a bottle of scotch and Italian candies.  Baci, baci!!

It has taken a while for me to make the transition from a citizen of Southern Italy to a citizen of the USA. Every November I find myself back in New Jersey.  I am happy to be in the clutches of my family and friends.  Ecstatic to see how much the wee ones have grown into interesting young adults.  After the frenzy of “welcome backs,” the happy hugs that make the emotional bubble in my chest burst with love, I look around and think “where am I?”  I had a teacher once who said that Europe didn’t exist – you got on a plane and flew around and then landed at a place like Disney Land where the pretend Europe was built.  He was kidding and trying to get us to think about the explorers who thought the world was flat.  He wanted us to realize that you have to get out of your comfort zone and see the world in order to understand not only the breadth of the world’s society – but who you are. But where am I?

The transition from the woman who lives in a small Southern Italian village to the woman who lives in the buzzing metropolitan area has always been difficult.  The culture shock of prices – $10 for two cappuccinos and one brioche makes my blood boil.  Hey, I get great cappuccinos for €1 and a FRESH brioche that tastes GREAT for €1.  Errrggg.  But more than prices, it is my difficulty accepting the changing cultural climate of my motherland.  I don’t need to harp on it – those of you who marched for equal rights understand that now we appear to be sinking into the quicksand of — well I can’t even talk about it.  If I do, I’m sure my “file” will just get thicker.

Transitions.  How do I transition from a life that includes a daily walk down the hill to the village piazza for a cappuccino and conversation to a life that means driving for an anything?  Everyone I pass in Pontelandolfo says buongiorno.  People I pass in my car flip their middle fingers because I drive to slow, fast or freaky. The fruits and vegetables I buy from Antonio’s truck in Italy haven’t been sprayed with stuff that could kill me.  The meat at the macelleria hasn’t been shot up with hormones.  Yes, I am lucky to have found a circle of local organic farmers in NJ so I am not forced to shop at giant super-markets.  I think about those that can’t.

Transition – my credit card is leaping out of my wallet. Don’t get me started on big pharma and the fact that the USA does not have a single payer health care system and is ranked under my feet on most studies.  Bloomberg News , Bloomberg Health-Care Efficiency Index, on September 26, 2016 ranked Italy 6th and the USA 50th.  My co-pay in Italy for my high blood pressure medicine is €2 – in NJ it was $46. How could this be?

I am a child of the 60’s.  During my university and young adult years, I was part of the politically active force of women who helped insure that reproductive rights belonged to women.  Who marched and voted for equality for all.  Who forced curriculums to include literary works by more than dead white men.  Who tossed boulders at glass ceilings. Who organized communities to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.  Who worked to bring arts experiences to children from all socio-economic strata.  Who –

Who now wonder “where have all the flowers gone – long time passing.” (Lyric by Pete Seeger.)  That is who I am.

Transitions.

Don’t despair, dear readers, don’t despair.  In a day or so the transition will be done and I will be back to my funny sardonic self.

Ci Vediamo.

 

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 4 Comments

Melanzane -Eggplant- Sandwiches

Sitting on the train between Naples and Milan, I was feeling sad about leaving Pontelandolfo when the elfin face of Zia Vittoria flashed across the screen of my brain. She was waving a plate of stuffed melanzane in front of my 8:00 AM – been on the road since 5:30 AM – hungry face. Now I see the train staff coming down the aisle with our early morning caffe and snacks so I know Zia Vittoria is a mirage. Since train food – even in prima class is even worse than airplane food, let’s go with my mirage. Melanzana – eggplant – is one of my “go to” comfort foods.   All of you arm chair psychologists will opine that I’m having this mirage – that includes scent – to get me out of my doldrums.

When the eggplants were in season in Pontelandolfo every home was chock full of the black-purple wonders. With a basket of them sitting on my kitchen table and my brain directing Sean Connery in a romantic comedy instead of focusing on eggplant – though it was one eggplant that made me thing of Connery – I hadn’t come up with a recipe.  Then the angel of cooking appeared with what looked like a hot panini and said  assaggiarlo – taste it. 


 I did. I let the soft flesh of the melanzana coupled with the great salty cream of a local sheep milk cheese roll around all the taste buds of my tongue. It was wonderful. Think grilled cheese without the bread! I followed my cooking muse out to the work kitchen near her gardens.

Peel only two sides of the eggplant.  Buccia pieno di vitamine.  The skin is full of vitamins.  Then make three or four really thick slices with the buccia on the outside of the slice. It is the crust of our eggplant bread. The slices need to be thick enough to partially split in half. Leave a “hinge” at the bottom. When I slice a pita bread I also leave a closed bottom so the goodies don’t leak out. 


 Vittoria uses a simple filing of fresh basil, eggs and sheep’s milk cheese.  She thick grated the cheese – which was fairly soft or new cheese.  Tons of cheese were added to 6 whipped eggs.  She tossed in a pinch of flour and chopped basil. The mixture looks like lumpy cream cheese when it is stirred and melded together.  It does not drip!  It is super thick.    You can see it in the above photo.

Finally fry both sides of the eggplant sandwhich in olive oil and keep Midge out of the kitchen or they will all be gone and you won’t have any to freeze. Did she say freeze? Many families in Pontelandolfo conserve their fresh products either by canning, drying or freezing. Zia Vittoria has a chest freezer that is always crammed full at the end of the summer.

I like to eat the stuffed eggplant literally like a sandwich. She puts then in aluminum pans and covers them with what she calls sughetto and freezes them. They will be brought out in the winter, baked and eaten like – you guessed it – a vegetarian lasagna!
Her sughetto is simply chopped tomatoes sautéed in olive oil with a smattering of salt and pepper.

Hmmmmmmmm. I can still smell them frying.

 What’s that?  You want my ticket? Oh that’s right I’m on the train to Milan.

Next summer I will be back and so will the eggplant grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Ci Vediamo!!

Categories: Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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