The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling in the mountains – summer is over. Annalaura, Gabriele and Alessio Iacovella looked at each other and said – what did we do this summer?
A Rainy September Day – Let’s Talk About the Summer!
After a warm your chilly bones lunch of tortellini soup, roasted chicken, home made french fries, local mushrooms and more at Carmela’s kitchen, her grandchildren eleven year old Gabriele, 12 year old Annalaura and 8 year old Alessio sat me down and told me their summer story –
During the day we stayed with Nonna Carmela – she is a great cook! At night we went to Casalduni. Casalduni has – Parco Giochi. (Their dad, Pasquale, is Casalduni’s Sindaco – mayor. The kids burst with pride about that.)
Parco Giochi has a garden, lake with fish, scivolo – slide,gonfiabili – inflatable houses to jump in, and campo per pallavolo – volleyball, bocce, small paddle boats –we know lots of kids in Casalduni. We had fun every night.
Allessio – a real charmer chimed in – Mi piace mar in Puglia! I took a long trip to Puglia with my family. In the car we looked at the paesaggio – panorama – and we saw the flowers, albero d’olvio – olive trees e gira sole – sun flowers .
Gabriele – I was a little bored in the car – the trip was long.
AnnaLaura – No it was short to Puglia – per andare in Calabria il viaggio è lungo.
It had a pool, un animazione – clown – a person to play with us kids. On a typical day – we went to the beach in the morning and in the afternoon to the pool. That way my mother didn’t have to worry about us so much.
What did you like the best?
Gabriele – Dolce- dolce ogni giorno. We ate in the same restaurant in the hotel every day and I ate tanti dolci.
Besides eating dessert what did you do –
Gabriele – I went to the pool to swim. With the animazione – played darts, calcio in the streets, pallanuoto – water polo and ping pong. OK, OK giocare con l’animazione è più divertente di mangiare dolci.
Alessio – Ho giocato con i miei nuovi amici nel mare.
Those are old people in that picture. I played with my new friends Samuele, Fabrizio, Giusseppe, Niccolo e Raffele. We built castles in the sand, swam, giocare a pallone – calcio and ….
Gabriele – Rodi Garganico – one night we went there too. It was like Pontelandolfo with an ocean.
View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico
Annalaura – Tanti negozi e bancharelle – shops and stands. The ancient buildings – beautiful. We were sad to leave Puglia.
Alessio – But wait till we tell you about our other trip to Calabria –
It is September – how did you spend your summer vacation?
There I was, rifling through my tiny little notebook, looking for a clue as to what happened on day five of the festa. The seven day event filled party had addled my brain. Movie? 9:30 – what the hell did that mean. I pulled up the Festa poster to read the list. Cripes! There are 8 – I counted – 8 days of late night events, drinks, etc. No wonder I can’t remember. Whack – it hit me – what did movie mean – just the biggest event to happen here – Comicron. A two day film festival that drew entries from all over the world. Note it was a TWO day even – so I only have to write one blog. The web site is slick – http://www.comicronfilmfestival.it – and states:
Il Comicron international short film festival nasce da un’idea di Ugo Gregoretti di creare un’inedita manifestazione dedicata esclusivamente ai cortometraggi comici. Un’esperienza in grado di scoprire nuovi talenti…
The Comicron international short film festival grew from the idea of Ugo Gregoretti to create an unprecedented event dedicated exclusively to comedy shorts. An experience that allows us to discover new talent …
This festival and the drawing power of Artistic Director Maestro Ugo Gregoretti, attracted a huge well heeled audience – including the red carpet crowd. They made the mistake of setting up the red carpet during the day – so that any old riff-raff could strut their stuff – like me!
Slick, slick, slick. The roadies and volunteers were all dressed in red t-shirts, had communication equipment and moved about with purpose. High end ear buds could be seen on crew chiefs scurrying about with clip boards. Banners from the highway led you to the piazza. The banners were a nice touch and perked up the streets.
We got there in plenty of time, sat on the red chairs and made sure I wasn’t sitting behind a tall person. The show was slated to start at 9:30 and being run by professionals so we knew curtain would be at 9:30. Sitting there, I discovered that being on time was actually late. The cutting of the ribbon and parade down the faux red carpet had started earlier – rats!!!
Having the attention span of a gnat, I promptly started looking around – whoa flowers on the down stage edge. That’s a nice touch and the screen is huge. It was obvious that the A-team had done the setup, the stage was nicely dressed and lit. Suddenly, I noticed that everyone was pointing to the front – must be someone famous – it is! Sarah Maestri was here – she is an incredibly famous Italian film, television and radio star!!!! She also just recently released a novel that has become a best seller. Of course, I was here on time and didn’t get to meet her – ugggg.
Scared you – thought you wouldn’t see her face! Don’t worry in the next photo we have Giorgio Arlorio, Sarah Maestri, Ugo Gregoretti and our own Sindaco Rinaldi. H’mmmm I bet you are wondering who Giorgio Arlorio is – just an incredibly successful screenwriter with tons of film and television credits.
On the big screen, the asino – donkey of yesterday’s Pontelandolfo came to life and licked the screen revealing Comicron! The wait for the show to start was broken by counting how many times they would repeat the mule action accompanied by some killer swing music. Then the graphic changed. The music changed. The lights changed. I raced home and changed.
The producers of Comicron are in the film business so the film work and the digitized graphics was top shelf. Media held our attention and signaled what was going on. You didn’t need a program because the art infused graphics let you know who was on stage and why. The hosts, Laura Abbaleo and Rino Genovese were real pros and a welcome change from the creepy guy of the night before. Unfortunately, they had to read an incredibly long list of sponsors but moved it rapidly. Now those names should have been on an opening graphic and we could have read it while we were waiting. I got just a tad antsy. The duo really impressed me when I realized they were verbally synching with images that were flashing behind them!
They opened the show with a home town favorite, Ri Ualanegli Juonior, performing Gioca Dei Bambini. Sadly, many in the audience left their seats after the little dancers performed.
Don’t you leave your seat – check out the dance. I shot their concert in June and you’ll see Gioca Dei Bambini, the traditional dance that everyone loves. The opening is kids playing games – the dancing is a few seconds past that.
The folks that scurried out of their seats didn’t go far because the kids also performed at the very end of the night. I was gone by then and really couldn’t grasp why you would have little kids stay up until 12:30 to be the finale of a film festival. Oh, I get it – audience numbers. I don’t think the programmers needed to do that. The audience – like me – was there to see this international slate of short comic films. The red carpet notables were another big draw.
Speaking of unnecessary fill – the night also featured additional live entertainment of of the well known professional variety. Next up, after the spirited young dancers was comic Antonio Riscetti. I appreciated his political humor and the fact that he spoke slowly and beautifully enough for me to understand.
Finally, we got to see the first set of three films. Then a singer came on who had starred in Notre Dame de Paris – It was already 11:00 ish we didn’t need another famous person we wanted to see the next set of films. I was a bad girl and got up and walked around to get a drink.
Let’s talk about the movies. The professionalism of cinema, writing and editing varied. All were well done but some reminded me of silly student films – you know slap stick and stupid sophomoric ideas. I mean “Mafia University” – come on. I loved the well scripted and thought out Fulgenzia – Until A Name You Do Part.
The next night an additional six films were shown – sans a lot of the extra entertainment.
They flowed on to the grand denouement – the announcement of the winners!
When my nonna told stories about life in Pontelandolfo she often mentioned the fountains. There is a massive one in the main piazza but there are others scattered among the hills. Some of these fountains date back to Roman times. These fountains were a hub for gossip, doing laundry, getting a quick drink on a hot day and gathering water to drink, cook with and wash in. For generations, mountain spring water has run through ancient pipes and spurted out into jugs that were carried home.
The fountains still exist – but there is a new kid in town! This year when we drove into the center of Pontelandolfo we noticed this big stainless steel box – Acquaself – and a bunch of people hanging around with plastic bottles. Holy smokes – they are getting water! It costs only €.05 a liter for spring water – sparkling or plain. Oh no, I thought, yet another rural ritual blown out of the water.
Years ago, Jack joined Mario Mancini and went up into the mountains to one of five or six ancient fountains. Mario, a foodie and mountain gatherer, knew where to take his bottles to get the best tasting water. They drove miles away from the village center and what did they find – other men filing bottles. Jack was flabbergasted when one of the men turned to him and said in English – where are you from – “New Jersey” – “Me too – Livingston”! That is the magic that happens around the fountain.
The Pontelandolfo main fountain has been a meeting place, photo op and life blood of the community. In the summer kids fill water balloons from the constantly flowing spring water. When that happens I run in the other direction – cross fire can be pretty wet. Can Acauself – a stainless steel box – really replace all that? Interesting question. I’ve gone for our water – I mean .05 for a litter of sparkling water – and chatted with folks who were filling their bottles. Maybe the conversation will continue at the box but I can’t see anyone doing their laundry. The talented Annalaura Iacovella will explain how Acquaself works – so those of you who speak Italian can test your skills – those of you who don’t can read the titles. Happy mineral water to you.
Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.” Now, Kathy knows I love to chat. We Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot. What do we talk about? I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting stopped.
On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn your umbrella inside out wind. The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.
Suddenly I was silenced!
Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting. For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!
It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something. It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision. Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.
Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills. When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.
How does one overcome this dilemma? First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider. We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data. Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot. I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.
I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.
To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air. Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.) Apple products all work incredibly well together.
I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad. Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook. Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer. Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)
Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.
This morning when I got up there was a line of cars outside our house.
That is the line that starts the post I thought I was going to write. You’ll get that one tomorrow or dopo domani. It is about a funeral and the funeral/burial traditions of Pontelandolfo. I can’t finish it today. Because today in the basement of the Pontelandolfo Cemetary “Cappella” – Chapel, where the bones of the poor are stacked in wooden or tin boxes, I found my great grandfather. Don’t ask me how I know it was him or how I found him. When I saw the wooden box with the handwritten “Salvatore Guerrera” I just knew. It doesn’t have a date – he died in the 1920’s – but I knew.
My great friend, Nicola Ciarlo, had taken me to the cemetery to explain the rules, regulations and traditions of a Pontelandolfo funeral. It is as unlike a New Jersey funeral as you can imagine. The mountain is made of soil that is rocky and hard. The cemetery has been used for generations and hasn’t grown in size. People die – how could the cemetery not expand? Simple, after a number of years, the coffin’s are dug up, bones prepared and then placed in a little box that is placed in a nice marble drawer. That’s if you can afford the nice marble drawer to share with your loved ones. But you’ll read that tomorrow. Today I need to think about my bisnonno.
Nicola took me to the church basement to show me where the bones of the lost ones were housed. The place is called “il ossario” – that is fitting because “ossa” means bone. The lost ones either didn’t have family to reclaim their bones or they were too poor to be placed somewhere else. In the 1920s in Pontelandolfo everyone was poor – my family was no exception. They were contadini – farmers who worked the land for a rich dude. Back then, after World War I and the ravaging of the mountain by the troops, the poverty caused a mass exodus to the Americas. Noone had the money to come back for funerals or even knew that loved ones had died. So, in the ossario there are stacks and stacks of wooden boxes. Some were dated from the early 1900’s. Most didn’t have any dates, just a name scrawled across one side. Little white boxes held the bones of poor children.
As I covered my nose from the damp, moldy smell and looked around, I realized that the boxes had been piled in alphabetical order. I kept walking and found a shelf containing the remains of Guerreras. Since Guerrera is as common here as Smith, I didn’t think anything of the shelf. Then, as though an arrow shot through my core, my entire being was pulled toward the box that said “Salvatore Guerrera.” It has been 5 hours and I am still crying – though now I am crying in my scotch. At first, I thought the overwhelming sadness was because the root of my family tree was tossed in a box and stacked on a shelf. Or I was crying because of how very poor my family had been. Then I realized that I was crying and felt an overpowering sense of loss for all the elders in my family that I didn’t know, haven’t found and haven’t taken the time to discover. I cried from the depth of my soul. The tears refused to stop. Suddenly, I realized that I was mourning. Mourning for my father, my Aunt Cat, my mommy, my Uncle Sally, grandma, Uncle Tony, Uncle Nick, cousin Roseann, Aunt Julie – mourning for all of the people I have loved, who had loved me unequivocally and died. All of the sadness I had bottled up had been released by my great grandfather, Salvatore. My sadness sits inside me and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe in order for the sadness to escape I need to start whacking away at the memoir about finding my family.
Enough about me. Let’s talk about Salvatore Guerrera. He was born on April 5, 1848 to Giovanni Guerrera and Maria Guerrera – since women here don’t change their names when they marry seeing the Guerrera married to a Guerrera was a wee bit disconcerting. But hey, it was a small village and Guerrera is like Jones. The Guerrera infusion in my body is even stronger – Salvatore married Caterina Guerrera. Writing this makes me realize that my blood must also flow in over 50% of the people that I meet. That connection is visceral for all of us and explains why I feel so accepted here. My great grandparents had five children that lived – Francesco – my nonno, Maria Vittoria, Anna, Nicola, and Giovanni.
What I discovered years ago peering through the dusty books in the town hall was that Salvatore had a whole second family! He also married Giuseppa Iannicelli and had four more kids- Caterina Maria ( who died as a baby), Caterina, Michele Nicola and Antonio. It is interesting that Salvatore’s first wife’s name was Caterina and he named his daughters with his second wife Caterina! I wish I could flash back in time and hear that story.
Salvatore was a small man who was larger than life – a fighter, lover, leader. I have only met him through the tales that others have shared. It isn’t the same as seeing his face and hearing his voice but it still links me to him. Here are stories my Zia Caterina, Daddy John, and Carmine Manna told me.
Salvatore Guerrera was Robin Hood. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. In those days everyone was a poor sharecroppers – like a slave – worked the fields for the rich. They had very little food or money. Salvatore took and gave. No one starved.
During World War I, Salvatore was out hunting and he heard some local women screaming. German soldiers were “having their way with them.” Salvatore shot the soldiers. He then dressed as a soldier, took their German guns and walked past the Germans – right back through the lines. That took amazing balls.
With safety in numbers, peasants then lived in stone attached dwellings. The bottom floor was used to house the family’s animals and farming tools. The heat from the animals rose and warmed the second floor which was inhabited by the family. It was one room. The space was very small and yet everyone managed to live together. The structure still stands in the Santa Caterina section of Pontelandolfo.
Zia Giuseppina Guerrera, my dad’s first cousin, told me these stories:
Salvatore needed wood for a fire to bake bread. In this time there were no trees left for wood. (My grandmother told me that during World War I everything was taken from them and they started to make soup from the bark of trees.) Everyone was poor and hungry. Salvator wanted to cut down the tree of the the padrona. Remember, Salvatore, like many others, was a serf and worked the land for the padrona. The tree was incredibly large and the padrona said “No, you can’t cut it. I need to tie my donkey to that tree. So in the dark of night Salvatore cut off the just the top of the tree and tied the donkey to the bottom!
Tobacco was grown in the fields to make cigarettes. The police – working for the rich – said don’t take this tobacco, it is to be sold. Of course Salvator took a leaf of the tobacco, looked at the police and said, ” Beh, don’t talk to me about this tobacco. I will smoke if I want to – so get the hell out of here.” Since he was as strong as a giant, the police went away. The next day the police came back and Salvatore was smoking. He was so very very strong and carried himself like a man of power. There was no arrest. They were afraid of him.
He was so strong that he would take things from the rich man to give to the others. The rich man would say – “I’ll give you money to stop taking things. Salvator laughed and said – “I’ll just take it.” The rich man too was afraid of the very strong and persuasive Salvatore.
When Salvatore was very old he told Giuseppena’s father, Antonio, to bring him his cane. “I want the cane. Give me the cane because I want to beat these children.” No one would bring him his cane. He was still really strong – even as an old man and everyone knew if he got a hold of that cane…
I obviously never met Salvatore Guerrera, the father of my father’s father and the very strong root of my personal family tree. Those traits of his I have seen – in my father, my aunt and gulp – I hate to admit it but – myself.
“L saugu t chiama,” Zia Giuseppina, my father’s first cousin, constantly tells me in the dialect of Pontelandolfo, that “the blood calls.” “L saugu t’altira.” Blood like a magnet is drawn to like blood. My saugu, is strongly attracted to the saugu here. She hugs me and reminds me, that I am the only one who came back from America to search for those left behind.”
Finally – the story you may or may not have been waiting for – the funeral traditions of my Italian home town. A shout out on this topic to Art Adair of Somerville’s New Cemetery, Jimmy Cusick of Cusick’s Funeral Home and Mayann Carroll, former ace lobbyist for the Funeral Director’s Association. Sorry that this particular blog was usurped earlier by my finding my great grand daddy’s bones and turning into a pile of weepy. (https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2014/06/06/finding-my-great-grandfather/)
This morning when I got up there was a line of cars outside our house. (Thats a lie, it’s been a week since this happened but I didn’t want to mess with the story.) I mentioned the cars to Jack and he said they had been there late last night too. An all night bash and we weren’t invited? Of course we are usually asleep by 10:00. Our house is really close to the cemetery but it has a parking lot and this car line started further up the hill. H’mmm.
Our neighbor and friend, Nicola Ciarlo, stopped over for caffè. Nosey Jack asked why Nicola wasn’t working. “There’s a funeral, he said, don’t you see the cars?” What cars, I said? (Hey I’m not the nosey one.) Looking at me like I had Campari for breakfast, Nicola said, “The ones on the road by the house?” Oh those cars. Why are they here? “People are visiting the family.” We do that in the New Jersey too. “With the body?” he asked. I retorted, The real body – the dead body?
According to Nicola, here in Pontelandolfo they bring the coffin to the house, arrange the body in the bedroom or another room and everyone comes to the house to pay their respects. People bring food and many kiss the dead person goodbye. (Try bringing food to a NJ funeral parlor – I’ve gotten my hand slapped trying that one – right Jimmy.)
The family stays up all night with the corpse. My first response was YUCK will I ever use that room again. Then, thinking about it, the idea resonated with me and actually sounds more civilized than schlepping the corpse from a drawer in the morgue to the paid company’s home. (Sorry Jimmy, your funeral parlor often feels like my home away from home.) They don’t have funeral parlors in Ponteladolfo – they have funeral facilitators. So unless you want to cart the body to – well I don’t know to where – you have to use your own parlor. H’mm that could be a lot of work. I mean, how long is the body in the house — I’m thinking three visitation days – two hours in the afternoon and two or three in the evening – or something like that. “Oh”, Nicola said, “its only 24 hours then the funeral at the church and burial. People visit most of that time.”
I was blessed to be present when my dad died and moments after my precious Aunt Cat died. During that period of time, I could feel the force of their spirits leaving. It wasn’t ugly or scary – it was an opportunity to share yet another moment with someone you loved. So maybe taking the process one step further and having your loved one pass on from their home isn’t’ so bad. Years ago that was the American tradition too.
I only saw the sign for one “organizzazione funerali a Pontelandolfo” – notice it is not a “home or parlor.” The company, Agenzia Funebre Diglio, located on Piano della Croce, 8 – 82027 – Pontelandolfo, BN, organizes funerals. They do not embalm! Bodies here are not embalmed. I’m thinking the NJ Funeral Directors lobby would have a hissy fit if folks started screaming for our laws to change and bodies in their natural state were allowed to be viewed for 24 hours and interred.
My Italian is not the best so I may have misunderstood some of Nicola’s nuances but research and Jack’s memory of his Italian teacher saying the same thing confirms what follows – sort of. Here you only lease a spot for a coffin. If you have a lot of money you build a zinc box like thing and your coffin rests on a cement pad. You then have thirty years to decompose peacefully. If you have less money your coffin is partially buried in the dirt and you have a small shell of an exterior box. You get ten years of a cozy spot.
After thirty years – or ten – the body is exhumed, bones are cleaned and put in a small box. Often, there is another ceremony for the bones. The bones are then placed in a smaller spot on one of the long walls of marble. Poor folks who don’t have family drawers on the wall are placed in the basement of the cemetery chapel. Those of you who read my last post, heard that story.
People of means have little private burial houses – what do we call those – memorials? (If you know what these things are called leave a comment.) The family’s remains can stay in the coffin in a place permanently or be removed later to make space for younger relatives, their bones placed in a glass box and put to rest in a smaller spot.
The people here visit their deceased family often. I see families come bringing new flowers weekly. There is a real connection to the past.
This exhumation and re-burial in a smaller spot is far from barbaric. It is done with love and a understanding of the cycle of life. The mountain’s rocky soil makes interment difficult. Usable land is farmed to bring food and income to the residents. The re-interment of remains has been going on for hundreds of years – think of all the bones found in ancient church lower basements- catacombs. More important than the burial process is the honor that is given to the dead – ongoing by even the younger generations.
After Nicola patiently explained all that to me, I decided to walk down the hill and see the funeral precession for our neighbor. I chose to watch from the great patio at Bar Mixed Fantasy. Whew, I got here just in time to watch the lead flower car slowly move up the hill to the old church. The hearse followed and following the hearse, just like in every old movie of an Italian funeral, people from the village slowly marched up the hill too. Wait a second – the person dies, is laid out at home and within hours folks are visiting, bringing food and clearing their calendars for the next day’s funeral. How does the news spread that fast? One of the services provided by the Funeral Agency is the immediate printing and posting of the large death notices.
The first time I came to Pontelandolfo – years ago – I saw plastered on the wall a death notice for Giovanni Guerrera. It was a little freaky since I had spoken to my dad the day before and he was fine. The death notices are either simple or adorned with art. Within hours of the persons passing the notices are posted on the villages walls and posted at the cemetery.
Ok, back to my glass of succo d’arancia rossa and the procession. I will admit I wanted to take pictures but I thought that it would be incredibly tacky. It was a very quiet and somber movement towards the church. OK,OK, I snuck one picture of the flower car. (This is for Cusick’s Funeral Home.)
After the mass, the procession moved slowly down the hill to the piazza and on towards the cemetery. Where the loved one will be interred undisturbed until the lease runs out and they are moved to their final resting place surrounded by those that loved them.
I’ll tell you what I observed from my table in the piazza.
Sipping caffè one day and attempting to read Il Sannio, the local newspaper, I nearly choked on a headline. Gli sconti per chi vuole spostarsi in treno in auto o in aereo(discounts for those who want to travel by train by car or by plane). For folks to get back to their home towns to vote there are heavy discounts on travel! There was a 60% discount on regional trains, 70% on national trains, 60% for travel by sea and the one that really kicked me in the ass – a 40 euro reimbursement for air travel. Now my ticket on May first was a hell of a lot more than 40 euros but my niece in London could have flown over for the weekend for practically nothing. Maybe they don’t do absentee ballots or they just like to have folks come home once a year. This is definitely a good thing!
Another good thing is the short campaign season. I can’t find any on line resources to validate what folks have told me but it seems that candidates and parties can only campaign for one month. Yeah! No political BS for years in advance of an election. Here, it is simply signs on the approved village sign boards and visiting folks in their homes.
My landlord did get mail from parties but only one from each – not a thousand from each and no robo calls! How civilized.
What’s bad? A hefty percentage of the people I surveyed in Pontelandolfo were not going to bother to vote. “Why – what does the EU do for me?” “Politics – it doesn’t matter they are all the same.” It was interesting for me to hear this laconic attitude. Last year when the election was totally local it seemed like everyone in the commune came out to vote – and they practically did. When I went to the polls this year I was the only one in my district’s room. Good news is I didn’t have to wait. According to AGI.it – there was a nationwide drop in voters for this particular election:
(AGI) Rome, May 26 – Turnout in Italy for the European election on Sunday fell to 57.22 of percent of eligible voters from 65.87 percent in 2009, when polls also remained open on Monday morning.
Here is some of the ugly. One afternoon, I thought I was in Hudson County, NJ. Men at the next table were listening to a recording on a cell phone and getting angrier and angrier. They played it a couple of times – it was hard to eavesdrop with all that cursing but… In a local race at a village whose name I didn’t catch, a candidate was calling people and literally threatening their jobs. Being a middle aged white woman and obviously harmless, I asked what the men were upset about and they told me. Some creep was calling older voters and telling them he would insure they lost their government jobs and never get another job unless they voted for his party. My question was how the hell would anyone know who you voted for? Paper ballots – you hand write a person’s name on paper ballots. The villages are so small and there are so few folks that vote in a district that you can figure out who voted for you especially if they use the mark. The mark? You are told how to write the person’s name – I’m not kidding here this is what they told me. Like, I’ll steal your cow unless you write me in as MiDge. They tell the next old dude to write it midGe. Since challengers get to review all ballots too…… This is pretty ugly. Uglier than anything I’ve heard of in NJ which can get pretty ugly. How is that bridgegate scandal doing?
Yes, I voted. My dad ingrained that in my brain. In Pontelandolfo we were only voting for the party who would send representatives to the EU. We vote in the provincial high school – it is a specialty school for jewelry design. Talk about good artsy vibes on election day.
I went into district two, showed them my voting card, carta identita and like last year started to give them my passport when the election worker said “we know you.” H’mm is that good or bad? They handed me a pencil and a piece of paper. Horrifying the pool workers, I started to put my mark right there and stuff the box. I mean all you have to do is put an X across the icon of the party. They pointed me to my secure screened space, I made my X and then stuffed the paper ballot in the box. There are no hanging chads you literally make an X over an icon. I am a good cittadini. I vote early and often. Look – I had my voter ID card stamped to prove it!
Fava beans are sprouting in everyone’s gardens! Yea, these protein filled little fellows make a yummy dinner. Last year, when the fava beans kept gracing my doorway, it was the first time that I had ever seen a fresh one. Well, maybe I did when nonna was alive and had the garden the size of a campo di calcio (soccer field) – but I don’t remember.
Seriously, this is a question that merits exploration. How many bags of fava beans are there in Pontelandolfo? When people pop in after pranza for caffè they usually bring something to share – like what ever is growing in the garden or was baked that morning. Now me, I like the “what was baked” this morning – no fuss, no muss, just yummy delight. My neighbor, Zia Vittoria, has an incredible garden. It is chock full of every vegetable you could possibly imagine – including fava beans.
Yet, as other women pop in to visit Zia Vittoria, so do giant bags of fava beans. H’mm when women visited these women they too brought fava beans. One day it hit me. What if there was really only a finite number of bags of fava beans and in any given span of two days the same 15 bags got re-gifted from house to house.
The bags stop here! Well, when a bag appears on my door step I don’t re-gift it. I say “guess whose coming to dinner.” Last year Mr. Fava came often. The top picture is of my first bag of this season. I pulled out the colander, a knife and a bag for the compost pile. The sky was blue and I cheerily began popping beans out of the pod.
So there I am shelling beans and wondering how I was going to cook them when my nipote (Italian for any kid in your family that you are related to and older than) popped by, reached into the bag, ripped open the pod and tossed the beans in his mouth. RAW! Who knew! I was forced to try it – I mean I’ll taste just about anything. The bean was sweetly good and obviously picked this morning. I discovered that the day they are picked they are deleeeeesh as a salad – tossed with tuna or just a few slices of onion or whatever you can imagine. That is also an abundantly easy lunch or dinner.
I kept at the de-podding for a while. My brain taking journeys back to the early seventies when with my long hair braided, I shelled beans, baked bread, grew sprouts and didn’t inhale. It seems to me that it used to be fun. This ain’t fun but it is worthwhile.
One of the things I remembered while I was mindlessly popping beans, was an article in the New York Times that I read last year. A snotty assed food writer had gone to Rome. ordered fava beans in a restaurant and was appalled that they weren’t peeled! I had no idea what the hell Miss little anal retentive was talking about. In all the homes I’ve visited for pranza, all the fava bean stew, soup, frittata I’ve eaten, no one peeled off the outer shell. I was taught to par- boil the beans before creating the dish. Apparently, after this par-boiling part you can take off the outer shell. Hell lady, I just spent an hour popping pods and now you want me to spend two hours popping par-boiled beans?
I caved and decided to try it. After boiling the beans and dumping them in the ever faithful colander, I burnt my fingers trying to pop them out of their little shells. What? Wait till they cool? What a thought! Ten minutes is the maximum of waiting time I give anything. I popped a few and tasted them. Damn, it did make a taste difference. They tasted sweeter and less meaty than they do with the shells on. I looked at the bowl of about a pazillion beans and I looked at Jack. He gave me the “are you crazy” look – no one here takes the shells off. When in Rome……
Without skinning the par-boiled beans, I made a simple recipe. First I sautéd a couple of large onions in local olive oil, toss in cubes of pancetta and let that all get caramelized and crispy. I always buy un etto of cubed pancetta – 100 grams – so that is probably what I used. H’mm, from all the veggie tops and pieces I had languishing around, I made vegetable broth yesterday. I tossed some broth in the pan, added the beans, a dollop of red wine – this is Italy – and let it simmer. That and crusty bread made a perfect “cena.”