Traditions in Abruzzo and how the passing of time has affected them. My mum’s love affair with Abruzzo.
“Traditional festivals haven’t changed much with the passing of the years, with the exception of the simplest carousels and the children happy with just one balloon in their hands. I remember a traditional mask (la pupa) that used to dance in every festival, the fireworks and the folkloristic songs. Going to school was a totally different experience: the teacher was only one and she was always right! My mum would prepare my lunch bag, the notebooks were all the same with a black cover, we all had a pen, a pencil and a rubber, and that was it. Studying was every student’s duty and nobody ever questioned it. I remember the games I used to play with my friends in the afternoon on the street: hide and seek, bicycles, chasing, runs, and all those games created with poor material like rag dolls, climbing trees, red light-green light, hopscotch! The holy communion was a celebration for both children and adults. Everything was simple. The food cooked by the mums, the homemade cake, handmade fresh pasta by the nonnas, after the church the celebration would move the house and if the honored child was a girl the presents were all about linen for the dowry.
As a teenager I would go out only on a Saturday night and be home again by midnight. The parties were all house parties: a record player and some slow dance. The first kiss, even the first approach would come very late.
When my mum was a young lady, women would give birth at home with a midwife. The newborns would get wrapped, with a linen nappy (that had to be washed over and over) and dusted with talcum powder. Women would breastfeed a lot more than today and the all family would gather around the new mum.
A lot of the traditional festivals have remained the same, for example the ones dedicated to the Saints just like the “Madonna dei sette dolori” commemoration. This is a typical commemoration of my town, Pescara, and the ritual demands the holy mess, the exhibition of the statue, the procession, the festival with the carousels, the unavoidable arrosticini (meat on a spit, typical preparation of Abruzzo region).
The even more attended “Festa di Sant’Andrea” in the heart of Pescara is characterized by the procession along the promenade (Riviera), fried fish and pizza, porchetta, and fireworks on the sea on the last night (to be watched from the beach), in total: 3 days of celebration with the fireworks ending the fun.
I love observing that certain things don’t change, it keeps me in contact with my roots with this place and the people I live with.
But the strongest connection is the one with food! How to forget the Sunday lunches at my mum’s where she could bring all the family together? It actually happened in a lot of houses, traditionally.
Food was simple and tasty, mostly locally produced and in season. Rules of a normal Sunday luncheon:
• Fresh handmade egg pasta by mum (chitarra pasta, sagne, potato gnocchi or ravioli…the choice depended on what was available at the moment)
• Chicken or other kind of meat (this was way before my daughters and I became vegetarians)
• My dad’s wine (sometimes a bit sour but no one seemed to notice)
• The prosciutto hung in the kitchen became darker and darker, harder and harder, and it would be handed out with parsimony because it had to last for a long time
• During special occasions there was also a special dish (torta ‘mbuss for birthdays, fried sweets for Christmas, castagnole and cicerchiata for Carnival)
• The veggies in season were a must and they had to be picked from our vegetable garden
Today things have changed a little, I am referring to the modern lifestyle: a mother doesn’t spend a whole morning to prepare a meal and vegetables are in season all year round. But the dishes that I don’t want to forget and therefore I still make at home are: homemade pasta, legumes, cereals and vegetables soups, cooked bread, potato soup, decoction of barley.. all dishes from the abruzzese cucina povera.”
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