Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tradizionale Italiano and the Witches of Triora

"Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." -Albert Einstein

Perched atop the alps of the Argentine Valley in Italy, lies an ancient mystical village where nature and spirits had once danced together in an evil macabre of witches and gruesome treachery. The medieval village of Triora had once been a place centuries ago with documented tortures and witch trials and as you walk through the dark and gloomy cobblestone pathways, you can silently feel the dread that filled the souls of the executed and the darkness of their executors.

As I looked out onto the valley before me terraced with agricultural beds, I acutely felt the delicate balance between humans and nature and how such remote places such as this, as morbid as it once used to be, was a place with sustainable agriculture that fed and nourished the entire village. What is most interesting to me is the amount of physical strength it took during these ancient times to cultivate the land without any modern day farming equipment or tractors, and the food preparation as well.
And where did I end up most fascinated in their Etnografico Museum? The kitchen of course.
The homeade tools they created to process and make their food like giant mortar and pestles made out of tree trunks requiring strong arms and back muscles is something I can barely imagine.

The type of cuisine of this region of Liguria in the province of Imperia which is adjacent to the French border is called "Cucina Bianca" where the emphasis on the cuisine was obviously energy driven for the hardwork in sowing and reaping the harvests. Starches, root vegetables, and dairy predominated their meals, however, a prized specialty of this region are all the mushrooms. I am now starting to wonder if all this witchcraft and heresy had something to do with some of the hallucogenic mushrooms found in nature.

Just below in the small village of Molini di Triora, where apparently the apparition of the Virgin Mary had once took place across the river, we spent a wonderful night with a special group of friends at an Antico Ristorante Albergo called "Santo Spirito" where this old family owned hotel and restaurant gave us warm Italian hospitality along with a 10 course authentic, homestyle meal made by noneother than the "Mama".

We started with the cold anitpasti plate, followed by a warm one. One plate of fresh ravioli with pesto and another of tagliatelli al funghi followed. A small digestive lemon sorbet called "Trou Normand" was served as an intermission, before the rest of the brigade. The Sanglier, Bambi, and Hens served with a creamy side of polenta squares were followed by Escargots. We were served at least 5 different types of local cheese accompanied with artisinal honey. Vanilla ice cream topped with caramel and a separate plate of fruit crostatas were for dessert while the homeade Limoncello and Grappa gingerly danced their way around the table. The meal concluded with a glass of champagne and Italian espressos afterwards.

As we all sat, ate and drank merrily surrounded in the warm dining room filled of antique radios, copper pans, and straw-woven witch dolls, I felt an incredible joy and appreciation for this special and unique moment, where I was transported to an ancient time. Savoring the traditional flavors, perhaps it was the wine, or the limoncello, maybe it was even the witches or the Virgin Mary across the river, but whatever that energy was, I understood everything better.

Mama de la cucina Italiana, Antico Ristorante Albergo "Santo Spirito"
Molini di Trioria, Italy

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