Tues morning, Aug 16
Town is a beehive of activity. Those little 3 wheeled Api’s are buzzing around town hauling sets and props, garbage, chairs and what ever else needs to be transported through our tiny medieval streets. Anything larger and Jeff is hauling it around in our trusty-rusty pick-up truck.
Clusters of people with clipboards gather, confer, and separate like so many drops of mercury, endless reorganizing according to the task at hand.
Sunday evening the drums and trumpets sounded, and the townspeople roared as each rione presented their Castellana. The Castellana is the ceremonial queen of the festivities, and she presides over all official gatherings for the entire year. Each rione fiercely waves their flag; the Castellana glides by, and then she appears on a balcony to give the royal wave.
Drums and trumpets are very effective for gathering crowds. It must be something imprinted on our DNA because you literally cannot help yourself..it’s like mass hypnosis. You hear the drums and you MUST go to the piazza. We literally abandoned our dinner, and nearly bolted from the kitchen. It is an urge that cannot be denied.
Monday night was the first round of plays, the short ‘bando’, where each rione makes fun of the others. Our bando featured talking geese, a rude chicken and some wise pigs, along with a lively market scene. The slender necked geese were actually the long arms of three of our prettiest lasses. The chicken was operated by Davide who was crouched inside a barrel. And the pigs were manned by the venerable Iva and Lucca.
Behind all the glamor and glitz of the lights, the kitchen crew of our Del Verziere Taverna were feeding all comers. In Italy, dinner time starts around 7:30, but we were in full swing by 7:15 with antipasta and pasta flying out the door. Huge salumis were whittled down to nubs in a matter of minutes. A whole prosciutto vanished, the grill had rows and rows of sausages all throwing off this gorgeous aroma (and a fair bit of smoke) and the pasta pot was bubbling away.
Last night’s pasta offering was gnocchi with a goose meat sauce ( sugo del’oca). I’m sure it was all part of the plan to serve goose while geese were being featured in our play!
Normally the pasta is made in the ‘bollatore’. It looks like a 3 basket deep fryer, but you fill it with water instead of oil. Pasta can then be made in stages…cooked, nearly cooked, just getting cooked. The trick is to never mix up your baskets, always keep the cooked in the far right spot or you’ll have huge confusion and crunchy pasta.
Gnocchi won’t work in a bollatore, it’s too delicate, falls apart too easily. So we devised a system with a big pot of boiling water and a large, long handled strainer. This meant I was fishing for gnocchi all night long, because those little rascals were very good at hiding from my strainer.
Libby was in charge of the Zuppa del Verziere, a delicious multi grain soup. She also handled all the vegetable orders: tomato salad and grilled eggplant. Which meant that the Americani dominated the stove in the taverna! Which also meant the crazy Americans were in the hot kitchen at the very source of the heat! The only hotter place is the grill, and that is a sacred position dominated by males. Meat>Heat>Man. Why is it that men, who never ever lift a finger in the kitchen, think they possess special skills when it comes to cooking over a fire? It’s a rhetorical question, ok.
We worked steadily from 7:15 until 9:15. At 9:15 there wasn’t a soul around; the crowds were all up at the Bando. Then we waited and waited, because we knew there would be a post-bando rush. At 11:15 Jeff came bursting into the cucina, demanding to be fed. “I want an antipasto! Sausage! Pasta!” He was followed by a flood of his fellow actors all wanting the same thing. The noise level got high as everyone debated who had the best bando, who got the best laughs, was Borgo better than us?? Impossible!
By 1:30 am, the kitchen was quiet and clean. There were a few of us in the piazza having a wind down digestivo drink, and then it was home to bed to get ready for another day of festa.
Special thanks to John Meadows for the bado photo from last night!