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.

IMG_7287

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!

 

 

Advertisements

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.
  • borgo-cerquelle
  • 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.
  • pizza1
  • 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.

IMG_0050

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.
  • Apron
  • 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.

2010-06-15 10.16.05

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.

Grazie Ri-Ualanegli Pontelandolfo

Grazie Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo –

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

ri old 4.jpg

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

ri tour world.jpg

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

ri kids1.jpg       ri kid2.jpg

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

folk logo

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

Ri folk village.jpg

 

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.

 

 

Passing the Cultural Torch

The other day I visited la mia sarta, my dress maker, Rosa, and found her working on the smallest pair of traditional boys britches I had ever seen. “Are they for a large doll”, I stupidly asked.  Cara, questi sono per il più giovane membro di Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo!  What she meant was – “you silly cluck – it is dance season and I make all the costumes.  This is for the youngest member of the company – a two year old!”  Many of our village’s kids are learning about their heritage by performing with the dance company, Ri Ualanegli.

ariele dance

Not only do they learn the dances, but they explore the stories behind the dances.  Learning about the contadini, serfs and farmers, who worked the land and just how they worked it. Extended families still live together here and children see their elders planting gardens, harvesting olives, pressing tomatoes into sauce and still eating and cooking in a traditional way.  Through the dance company, these piccolo dancers gain an even greater understanding of who they are and what life was like in their home town.  History lessons are a natural part of the dance lesson!   My Arts Educator brain just took over – think about it – these kids are having fun, learning about their culture and have the opportunity to grow as self confident, creative problem solving adults!  Yeah for Dance!  YOU CAN SEE THESE TALENTED KIDS LIVE – HERE IN PONTELANDOLFO – JULY 31, AUGUST 1ST AND 2ND. Here are a group of kids dancing in 2014 – wade through the introduction and you will get to the dance – note the older kids helping the babes in dance along –

Other children are fascinated with the old sounds and music that accompany the dancers. It makes my heart burst with joy to see the little guy learning the musicality of the fisarmonica – accordion – from the old masters.  This instrument, featured in the folk group Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo and other Italian folk companies, looks a small accordion.  These kids who rock out the local Tarantella don’t know it yet but they too are accepting the responsibility of passing on the culture of their village.   The traditional music reflects moments in our historic time line. The songs are of joy, fear and love. I was delighted a few weeks ago to listen to a recital done by a group of young musicians.  The traditional music of the Sannio Hills will live on through this and ensuing generations.

allessio

This past week, a group of Pontelandolfese men made sure that the sport that I never heard of before I came here was passed down to the little men who would make up the teams of the future.  These kids began by strapping cord to their arms, loading up a wheel of cheese and letting it fly!  Welcome to ruzzola del formaggio – cheese rolling.  Actually, this weekend was our Festa di Formaggio with competitions for children and adults.  Of course, there was also the tasting of yummy local cheeses.  This was the first annual Festa di Formaggio so plan on being here next year for it!

ruzzola

These wee cheese rolling wonders were working with adults who have been part of Pontelandolfo’s award winning team. Ruzzola del Formaggio competitions are incredibly serious.  The winner gets to keep the cheese – it does get eaten!  There are teams from all over Italy.  Those teams would not exist and that tradition continue if villages didn’t keep the sport alive.

ruzzola 2

Passing the cultural torch is important for all villages and equally important for families.  Share those tales.  Write down those recipes. Dance the dances your grandparents danced. Let your children learn about who they are and where their roots are.

Don’t forget to come to Pontelandolfo on July 31St!  Explore our culture and enjoy our art!

folk logo

 

 

 

 

Serbian Dance Company in Pontelandolfo

serbia title

I went to YouTube and entered JEKA, the name of this Serbian company.  The first video I saw reminded me of the Rockettes in perfect Radio City Music Hall formation.  Then the music got faster and faster and the formations kept going and going.  I was exhausted, but enthralled.

If you are in Italy – or a cheap plane ride away – come visit Pontelandolfo this July 31, August 1 & 2.  I’ve seen a number of folkloric festivals over the years but this one, produced by Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo offers incredible diversity.  (I did an earlier post on the group from Poland and more are to follow.)

The folk dance group Jeka is from Obrenovac, Serbia.  They have been performing since 2010 and have over 200 dancers, musicians and singers working together.  I wonder if they will all be in our little village?  Jeka performs dances from all regions of Serbia, including central Serbia’s popular Sumadija and Kolubara. The artistic team includes – ethnomusicologist Biljana Konjevic (folk orchestra and folk singer group), choreographer, Jelena Stanisic and president, Nenad Mandic.

A typical form of Serbian folk dances is “kolo”.  This is a chain of dancers holding each other – this is what I started watching.  The dancing is ideally in a circle. After “kolo” comes “lesa” – a single chain in line or in two parallel lines, moving left and right, back and forth.  Sounds simple – but you try to keep 30 people in two exactly parallel lines.

 

serbia duo 2

I read that Serbian folk costumes have a distinctive place in the tradition of the Serbian people. Their role throughout history, as symbols of ethnic identity, was of great importance. Every region inhabited by the Serbs had a distinctive folk costume. The outfit revealed not only someone’s origin, but in multicultural regions it was a recognizable sign of ethnicity.  You will see hand-woven skirts and vests filled with colorful designs and patterns.

Note that I said, “you will see”.  I sincerely hope you an make it to the 2017 Folk Festival on July 31, August 1 & 2 in Pontelandolfo (BN).

 

folk logo

Ci vediamo!

This Is A Drill – Earthquake!!!

This is a drill. I repeat, This is a drill.  Crash, boom, the house is moving.  *&^%$, an earthquake!?  A terrorist attack? Run? Hide?  What do we do?  Sirens wailed.  We ran out of the house. Ambulances raced to the historic center.  My emotions are off the chart.  What the hell is going on?

Today, July 9, civil defense teams from all over Campania raced to Pontelandolfo to aid its residents. I repeat, This is a drill.  Jack was an emergency management professional for over 40 years and was part of the teams that created drills.  I would pop in and out of exercises simulating the media and harassing state and national spokespeople.  When we heard there was going to be a simulation of a natural disaster, we had to witness it.

I put it in my calendar and when I woke up I shrieked – it was 9:30, we’re late! At about 8.30 am, Pontelandolfo was to be invaded by approximately 150 Civil Defense volunteers from various parts of the Campania Region. Twenty associations had given their commitment to participate in this unique event.  When we got to the piazza at about 10:00 they were all gathering under a tree near the two way radio transmitter.  Soon, everyone stood at attention for the national anthem. This signaled the beginning of the drill.

The purpose of the drill was to implement and test Pontelandolfo’s Municipal Civil Protection Plan. I wander if I ask nicely, if Jack and I can read it?  According to my source for all things Pontelandolfo – the Pontelandolfo News – 

By setting up such a document, the administration wanted to give a strong signal for the protection and security of citizens in the event that they experience natural disasters such as an earthquake. Pontelandolfo, nestled in the Apennines, has  high seismic risk, knowledge and preparation to face this danger is critical.

Emergency vehicles from all over the region encircled Piazza Roma.  My heart burst with pride as I remembered that just like all of those Flagtown Fire Trucks of my New Jersey youth, these trucks were driven by a dedicated group of volunteers.  The same type of dedicated volunteers who, in recent years responded to horrific earthquakes and dug out the victims of the massive avalanches in northern Italy.  These men and women are the backbone of our communities. We thank each and every one.

After a short briefing, an Emergency Operations Center was activated at the Municipal Building.  We didn’t peak our nosey noses into the EOC but watched the volunteers mobilize for a variety of scenarios. The evacuation drills  were staged in our medieval village center – which has historically been hit by earthquakes. The various teams evaluated the extent of damage caused by the faux seismic events.  Other teams practiced rescuing the wounded. The Croce Rossa ambulances  soared up the steep hill and returned with rescued wounded.  A triage tent had been set up to evaluate and assist the wounded.

Vonuteers from Pontelandolfo’s Protezione Civile prepared lunch for all.  It is great that all of these volunteers from various towns get to network.  Those relationships will certainly be important if and when they need to assist each other.

I made a perky little video to salute the work of all of the volunteers – again – WE THANK YOU ALL!!!