Olives to Olive Oil

This month the hills and fields of Pontelandolfo are a bustle of olive picking activity. Tis the season to make that luscious green-yellow oil that the Sannio Hills are known for.

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Photo by Gabrielle Iacovella

Our village is chock full of ancient Ortice olive groves.  For generations families have been harvesting their olives and either pressing the oil themselves or since the dawning of the 1900’s taking them to our local Frantoio Oleario Rinaldi the olive oil mill owned by the Rinaldi family.  Started by Giovanni Rinaldi, the oil mill has been managed by a Rinaldi for generations.  Today’s managing director is Rocco Rinaldi.  His sons Gianfranco and Sergio play active roles.  The other role of Gianfranco’s is that of the mayor – sindaco – of Pontelandolfo.  Sergio is a professional taster certified by the National Organization of Olive Oil Tasters in Italy.

My New Jersey tasters aren’t certified but love the heady aroma and flavor of Rinaldi’s Vantera brand oil. I had a case of Vantera – sent to New Jersey just in time for last Christmas.  Today, one of the recipients asked if Santa’s Elves were shipping another case over this year.  Hmmm, I wonder if she has been naughty or nice?

We are truly oil spoiled.  Folks in Pontelandolfo who make their own oil, often store it in centuries old stone cisterns or vats.  My happy oil dance just spins out of control when my pal Nicola takes the lid off his vat and scoops his fresh oil into a jar for me.  YUMMY!

My first thought was to tell you all about how this great oil is made through a cold milling process.  The oil is extracted through a “superdecanter” in the low-temperature, continuous plant.

My second thought is to simply go to the video –

Are you “jonesing” for a taste of our hometown olive oil?  Taste some during our 2018 Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo sessions for adventuresome cooks!

Ci Vediamo!

 

 

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It Takes A Village to Learn Italian!

Valerio Ponte

Intermediate and advanced students of Italian, here is your chance to burst your ability to speak up a notch.  How?  Through crowdteaching in Pontelandolfo this spring!  WHAT???? Here is the back story –

Gli dico ma.. I was in Pontelandolfo’s library having a conversation with some of my wee English students when like a flash-choir three of them blurted out, “Direi – usa condizionale.”  Huh, I replied to the ten year olds who corrected my Italian.  One tyke rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.  Glielo direi ma, I corrected my sentence – (I was trying to say “I would tell him but…” but had said “I tell him but.”)

Jack and I have been staying longer and longer in Pontelandolfo.  When we first visited my Italian was barely there.  I was great with gestures, acting out what we needed and generally making everyone from shop keepers to small children in the piazza giggle at my attempt to speak la bella lingua. Over the years my Italian improved and just recently I figured out why – CROWDTEACHING.  Hey, if one can have crowdsourcing or crowdfunding – why not crowdteaching? As we became fixtures in the community, more and more people corrected my Italian.  Marilina, in Bar Elimar, made me repeat Caffè shakerato a pazillion times this summer.  If I wanted a decaf espresso shaken over ice and lusciously turned into a summer drink, I had to stop saying decaffeinato shakerooooo or shakirito or shaken not stirred.

Crowdteaching.  Hmmm.  Why not share this concept with other students of Italian and combine it with life in a Southern Italian village?  That thought has turned into Leap into Language Immersion in Pontelandolfo.

Students of Italian who are currently at the intermediate or advanced level, have the opportunity to experience the language in its natural setting, take formal classes and be corrected everywhere and by lots of people.

You will eat lunch in private homes, play cards with the guys in the bar, roll cheese with the Ruzzola Team and improve your conversational skills. Every home that you visit and every social or cultural activity that you attend will include native speakers correcting your speech.  Imagine an extended family of native speakers helping you improve your language skills.  There will be laughter, friendships will be built and you will leave with an increased capacity for conversation.

Included Highlights:

  • Transportation from the Benevento train station.
  • 7 nights, single or double room, with television, refrigerator and breakfast. Five rooms in this cute B&B have private baths.  A two-room suite shares a bath.  Unless it is requested, the last 2 people to register will share a room.  The shared room will be very large. Il Castello
  • 8.5 hours of formal classes and 7 full days of immersion.
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo at an agriturismo. Tour the property, play with the animals and perhaps hear a tall tale or two.
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  • Four (4) meals in local homes. Eat, drink and swap stories with a family in their natural environment.  They will want to know all about you and you will want to know all about them.  Conversation will swirl.  Two participants will be dining in each household.
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  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner.
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products, and other activities.
  • Explore the Sannio hills with Mario! He has walked the mountain hunting truffles, asparagus, mushrooms and more.  This is a unique opportunity.
  • After a morning of exploring the mountain, pizza pranzo at B&B Calvello.
  • Learn the ancient sport of cheese rolling – La Ruzzula!

Thank You Zorrotropa For Their YouTube Video Ruzzola del Formaggio.

  • Drink beer and chat with the men who sit in front of the bar daily, play cards and hand games like a native.
  • Lecture and tour of the historic church, San Salvatore.
  • Italian movie night and discussion.
  • Lecture “I Gesti.” Before you leap into the local fray, learn the sign language.
  • Learn the traditional folk dances of the town from dance company Ri Ualanegli.
  • Excursion to Altilia Roman Ruins.
  • Lecture on the history of Pontelandolfo.

Date: Friday, April 20  through Friday, April 27 2018

This cultural adventure is limited to 8 people.  For more information e-mail us at info@nonnasmulberrytree.com

Crowd-learning – who knew that it would take a village to teach me Italian!

Ci vediamo!

 

 

 

 

 

Cook, Eat, Laugh!

Cook, Eat Laugh!  That is exactly what happens each time a group of adventurous foodies – women and men – come to Pontelandolfo and hang out in local kitchens and learn the dishes that nonnas have been sharing for generations.  Pontelandolfo – to me – is an example of the best that Italy has to offer.  No backpack swinging tourists. No overpriced cappuccinos. Simply incredible mountain views, fresh foods cooked seasonally, a population that embraces life with joy and a welcoming attitude that surrounds all newcomers.

Just a scant two years ago, Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo was an idea floating around a kitchen table.    How could we bring some tourism money to Southern Italy and not promote the town into another jammed packed tourist site.   The “ah- ha” moment came when a visitor said to me, I would love to just spend a week here living like the Pontelandolfese.  Bingo!  Together with a group of homemakers an incredible opportunity, for folks who love to cook and travel off the beaten tourist track, was born.  Visitors have been Cooking, Eating and Laughing ever since we produced the first event in May 2016.

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Our First Group Visited Our Historic Tower

Now it is your turn!  Cook, Eat, Laugh!  Become part of a small Southern Italian village’s life.  See a different part of Italy and taste dishes that go back generations.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

May 19 -26 or September 8 – 15 2018

Limited to 8 people!

The Experience Features –

  • Transportation from the Benevento Train Station
  • 7 nights at B&B Il Castello
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo (lunch) at an agriturismo.  A great example of Italian Farm-to-Table eating.
  • 4 half-day cooking classes with local cooks. After preparing the dishes for pranzo or cena you will sit down and eat with the family.  Here is an example from September 2018 – some of you may have seen this!
  • English Speaking Translator for all classes and events.
  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products and other activities.
  • Excursion to  Sepino Altilia Roman Ruins
  • Walking Tour of Historical Pontelandolfo
  • Visits to another village’s cultural site or a cultural activity – to be determined.
  • Last night “arriverderci” with all the local cooks.
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  • Written recipes in English.

Regretfully, there are no special dietary considerations.  This medieval village has charming cobblestone streets but it is not handicapped accessible.  The adventure and experience in the home of local families requires the ability to climb stairs, walk on uneven streets and feel comfortable in a hilly environment.

To see more photos of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo, visit our Facebook Page.

Cook, Eat and Laugh with us!

Registration materials and financial information will be sent via e-mail to those that want to join the adventure.   info@nonnasmulberrytree.com 

Ci vediamo a Pontelandolfo!

Time travel through your taste buds


You’ve seen lots of folks “cry in their beer.”  But, I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on the planet seen crying over cooked pig’s feet.  As I slurped the meat and fat off the bones cooked to perfection in parrozz, I could feel my nonna hugging me and hear the squabbling of my Italo-Americano family fill the Flagtown farmhouse kitchen. Parrozz- what the heck is parrozz? Thank you Angelamaria Addona of B&B Calvello for whisking me – and our group of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo September 2017 cooks – back in time.  To the time when subsistence farming, foraging and eating every single bit of the animal you raised was the norm.

Kathy, one of my best foodie buds, couldn’t believe it when I called her about this dish. I literally had started crying when I ate it and when I talked about it. Crying for my Nonna Rosa, Zia Caterina and all the elders of my family who not only had made this dish after foraging for dandelions and wild fennel but passed me the mapeen so I could wipe my hands on the communal towel after sucking the meat off every bone in my bowl.  Pig parts and weeds, I said to Kathy. Pig parts and weeds – so delicious that I could have stayed at B&B Calvello long after the van came to pick up the American cooks and kept on eating. Kathy suggested that I stop calling the dish “pig parts and weeds”. In dialect it is called Parrozz con Cacchiarella!

In her turn of the 20th century kitchen, Angela made parrozz  – vegetable and meat soup/stew – and cacchiarella – unleavened corn bread. Parrozz con cacchiarella is a dish that dates back to the time my ancestors scampered over our Sannio hills searching for what today’s foodies call edibles.

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If you are not afraid to forage, here is how you make it. Go out in the field and pick what ever vegetable green is in season. Verdure di compagnia– greens from the countryside. She used the white part of bietola, which is in the rhubarb family.  Cicoria, chicory, was raising its green head on the countryside so that was the second veggie. She washed the veggies and cut them in big chunks. They were tossed in a pot and covered with water with a dash of salt. When the water came to a boil the veggies simmered for half an hour.

Angela cooked some local cabbage leaves while pig parts were cooking away in yet another pot.  These are the parts of the pig I LOVE  – pig’s ear, feet, cheeks etc. Boiling softens them and lets some of the grease out. After the pork had cooked, she tossed out most of the water and layered the cooked vegetables on top of the pork pieces. Chunks of garlic were tossed into the fray. Do not mix it up! Top it with the pre-cooked cabbage. Think of this as a green lid. Toss a wee bit of salt on top and a tiny bit of olive oil. Not a lot since the pig parts are full of fat. Cover the pot and cook it very slowly on a low heat. It is great with wild fennel – but they weren’t in season now – so Angela added fennel seeds.

A wee bit later, Angela took the lid off the parrozz to let the extra water evaporate. She lowered the flame even more and pushed the cabbage down on in the pot. Do not turn the pot! The pig parts stay on the bottom and the vegetables stay on the top! The minestra will be bubbling, you will smell the pork and veggies and keep on wanting to stir it up.  DON’T!  Leave the pot alone and let it simmer along until the weeds – oops – I mean greens are cooked and the scent of pork wafts through the kitchen.

When the liquid comes to the top and the veggies sink. Turn it off!!! It is finished. But what about the cornbread called Cacchiarella?  You would have been working on it while the soup/stew was bubbling away.

The first step to making the cacchiarella made no sense to me – until my ah ha moment later. Take giant cabbage leaves and cut off the bottoms and slit the core a wee bit. Wet them and put them in the sun so that they will wilt and get flat. Then go out to the fields and cut some sambuca tree branches to make a broom. Why? You will of course be using a wood burning oven and need the broom to push the coals back to the side while maintaining the temperature of the oven. Wet a second broom to really clean the base of the oven. Oops, guess I forgot to mention that Angela’s kitchen has a wood burning oven and stove!

Back to the corn bread. Make a flat circle out of four or five flattened cabbage leaves. Flatten them further. They are now the tray or parchment paper for the corn bread. The corn bread she made with our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo cooks included 600 ML of water, 1 kilogram of corn meal, 4 spoons of salt – well they were spoons, a hand full of wild fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Knead it up!  Take your aggressions out on the dough! Meanwhile, for a few hours your wood burning oven has been filling the air with the scent of days gone bye. Oh, only use olive tree wood in the oven and when the bricks turn white sweep the coals over to one side with a broom made with sambuca leaves.  Then take the dough and spread it out on the cabbage leaves and with your handy pizza peel slide it into the prepared wood burning oven.  Wheeeooo, this is a lot of work.  Watch it rise and fall and turn a golden brown.   Then pull it out and remove the cabbage leaves – let it cool a second or more first.  Rip up the corn bread and add it to the top of the soup/stew pot.  Serve it immediately and watch me salivate. Watch the tape and enjoy.

 

You too can learn traditional Southern Italian cooking.  Join us.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 19 -26 and September 8-15, 2018

For more information, send an email to info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

Russian Symphony in Sannio Hills

More than one person has asked me what Jack and I do in a teeny, tiny Southern Italian village.  The implication being that we must be bored to tears.  Usually, I give a snarky response like – the laundry or pick tomatoes.  The reality is, we are involved in more cultural activities here than we are in New Jersey.  Italians have a passion for and a commitment to the arts.  The arts are part of the fabric of who they are and their lives.  Yesterday, after doing the laundry – no – not really, I got a text from my friend Adele.  She alerted me to the free symphony orchestra concert in neighboring Morcone.  Jack and I were absolutely in!  We love classical music and until we got there didn’t know or care who we were hearing.

I expected students from the music conservatory and was surprised to see the Grande Orchestra Sinfonica Russa della Repubblica di Udmurtia. ( I just googled Udmurtia to see what part of Russia it was – they breed great musicians!)  Their conductor, Leornardo Quadrini, is not only Italian but is committed to sharing the music of the world with the people in our Sannio Mountains.  I found out that some how he donated the concert to Morcone!  He has been recognized with a load of awards for his commitment to the Province of Benevento.  The maestro has conducted for places like La Scala and a variety of other opera houses.  Not too shabby!  Maestro Quadrini is also gorgeous and has a larger than life personality.  The orchestra entered in dress black, he bounded into the space on his cell phone giving directions to someone.  Folks in the audience were yelling out additions to the directions.  When they were finalized – all applauded!  He beamed and then looked down at his clothes – “it’s hot and I didn’t have time to change – do you mind?”  No one minded – including the musicians who obviously adore him.

Morcone is one of those towns that appear in guide books.  They seem to have been dropped onto the side of a mountain and by some magic of construction defy gravity and don’t slide down.  The historic center is at the very top of the town.  My friend Adele grew up in Morcone and can bound up the steep steps to the top like a gazelle.  “Are we there yet,” I would wine as we wended our way up another flight.  “How do people bring their furniture up here – or groceries?”  Jack poked me and said keep walking.  Suddenly, we were in this incredible piazza.  Piazza San Bernardino sits in front of the municipal theater.  There are stone buildings on three sides and than a view of the valley.  It was beautiful and incredibly well kept.  We walked a wee bit further to the bar – I thought someone picked up a 1970’s West Village NYC bar and dropped it here.  If there weren’t a million steps to get there, I’d become a regular.  The owner was as unique and charming as his space.  After a glass of wine, it was time to secure seats.

Not that many people still live in the historic center of the town, but lots of people came to the concert.  It was a NYC kind of crowd – well dressed people mingling with a younger set in jeans or bermuda shorts.  Aging hippy garb sitting next too a silk suit dress ensemble.  No matter who they were they became one with the music.  Some people even hummed along!  The concert started with a Russian composer – I thought he said Rimsky Korsakov but I could be wrong.  They then played Verdi, Rossini, Bizet and more.  Ending with a rousing tarantella that included the Maestro conducting claps in the audience.  Una Bella Serata!  No one wanted the night to end.  The applause and shouts of bravi insured an encore.

 

Next time someone asks me how we fill our time in a teeny tiny Italian village, I might just say – I put on my glamour rags and go to the symphony.

Ci vediamo.

Our Genealogist on TedX Talks!

Rich Venezia is my favorite genealogist – not just because he is handsome and witty but because he really knows his stuff.  He was researching for clients with roots in Southern Italy and popped into visit Jack and me.  He has been researching Jack’s Irish heritage so they had lots to talk about.  (I hope Jack is from a town that makes fabulous Irish Whiskey.)

While we were having a 4 hour pranzo, Rich casually mentioned he had done a Ted Talk.  WHAT!  I bellowed – did I mention we were eating at Borgo Cerquelle, my favorite agriturismo so lots of folks turned and peered at our table.  What, I said a little gentler.  Rich Roots, his firm, is in Pittsburgh and Rich did a TEDx Talk there.

I watched it and was so caught up in broadcast that I knew I had to share it.  Every generation needs to listen and learn from this –

 

Researching With Rich

Rich Venezia is a professional genealogist based in Pittsburgh, PA. He specializes in Italian, Irish, and immigrant ancestry, and NJ/NYC and Pittsburgh-area research. He also assists clients with dual citizenship applications. He has worked on two genealogy TV shows (including PBS’ “Genealogy Roadshow”) and is available for client research and speaking engagements.  His website can be found at richroots.net and he can be reached at rich@richroots.net. 

Grazie Ri-Ualanegli Pontelandolfo

Grazie Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo –

Thank you for decades of insuring that the cultures and traditions of Pontelandolfo live on.

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Thank you for being a world class dance company and bringing those cultures and traditions to cities around the world.

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Thank you for insuring that the children of Pontelandolfo know their heritage.

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Thank you for producing dance festivals in our village that entertain, enlighten and expand our horizons.

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Thank you for the hard work you do providing housing, food and entertainment for the global companies that you bring to Pontelandolfo.

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Thank you for this year’s festival, July 31, August 1 and August 2.

Thank you to all of you that visit Pontelandolfo this week and enjoy dance companies from Italy, Poland and Serbia.

 

 

Folk Festival to Stream Live!

Ri Ualanegli knows how to produce a Folk Dance Festival!  If you can’t get to Pontelandolfo – and I encourage you to get here – you can see the festival streamed live on Pontelandolfonews.com and on FaceBook Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo.  Save those links!  Save the dates – July 31, August 1 & 2. At the end of the blog there is a complete schedule of events – don’t forget the time difference if you want to catch the live stream.  The commercial will wet your appetite for folk dance and if that doesn’t work, read on about the two other Italian companies that will be in the festival – Urbanitas and La Pacchianella.

Associazione Culturale & Folcloristica Urbanitas

Based in the town of Apiro, Urbanitas, formed in 1933, shares the rural traditions and culture of the 19th-century Marches.  This was a period of abject poverty.  There were rare occasions for festivals.  Because they were rare, the festivals were incredibly unique and intense.  The peasants of the Marches, accompanied by sprightly music enjoyed themselves dancing that bordered on the phrenetic.

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The company was included in the filming of Dino Risi’s Straziami ma di Baci Saziami, starring Nino Manfredi.  They have also been seen on both regional and national television.

Since the 1970s, Urbanitas has collaborated with the town of Apiro and produced an annual international folkloric festival, Terranostra Apiro.

La Pacchianella

This folk group claims to be one of the oldest – founded in 1923 – and most famous Italian group.  They come from  Monte Sant’Angelo in Foggia – noted for the white line of terraced houses and in the Christian world for its ancient rocky shrine where in 490 The Archangel Michael appeared.  I thought it was interesting that their costumes hint of Spain and reflect the Spanish rule of the area.  Lots of color, tons of gold – bling personified – is fun to watch and adds panache to the dances.  They have toured the world and made a number of films including one by Disney on folk lore.  This video has them dancing in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower!

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