La Befana was an old woman who lived in a small village in Italy. She was known throughout the village for her wonderful baking and the cleanliness of her kitchen. She was often seen sweeping the area in front of her home. And many had heard her say that she was so busy baking and cleaning that she rarely had time to do anything else.
One winter day, while La Befana was sweeping in front of her home, three travelers stopped to ask her for a drink of water. They told La Befana that they were astrologers (they were often called the three wise men) who were following a star to the birth place of the Christ child. She kindly gave them water and then invited them to dinner.
After dinner the astrologers prepared to continue their journey and asked her if she would like to come with them to see the Christ child. La Befana shook her head saying that she could not possibly take the time needed for such a journey. She was secretly itching to get back to her cleaning and cooking. She stood at her door and watched them leave.
La Befana went back to her sweeping. But hours later she began to feel that she had made a mistake. Maybe she should have gone with the 3 astrologers to see the Christ child. La Befana decided to follow them.
She quickly grabbed a basket and filled it with baked goods of all kinds. She then put on her shawl and with her basket and broom hurried off into the night practically running to catch up with the wise men.
La Befana traveled through the night but never caught up with the wise men. It is said that she ran and ran until she and her broom were lifted up into the air!
Ever since that night, La Befana is believed to fly through the night or run over the roofs in Italy on Epiphany eve. She stops at the home of every child, leaving them treats in their stockings if they are good and a lump of coal if they are bad.
She hopes that one of the children she visits will be the christ child.
Copyright LLL, Storyteller/Storysinger
The name Befana is said to be a mispronunciation of the Italian word epifania which stands for epiphany. La Befana still visits the children of Italy on the eve of January 6, Epiphany. She fills their stockings with candy or a lump of coal. It is also believed that she sweeps the floor before she leaves. Many households leave her a small glass of wine and a small plate of goodies.
The fig tree (Ficus carica) is the result of a majestic plant, native to the Mediterranean area.
It is believed that the fig tree is native of 'Asia, but according to other sources, however, its origin is placed in the Middle East. In any case, surely its origin is very old.
In the Bible, for example, is cited as the first "dress" of the story: Adam and Eve "dressed" in fact, of fig leaves. In the Old Testament, the fig is mentioned as a symbol of abundance.
In India, the banyan tree is considered sacred, and the plant is called Ficus Religious.
In Greece the fig tree was involved in many myths, especially of an erotic nature, they also saw it as a sacred tree, and attributed to the god Dionysus, the birth of this tree.
It is said that Polyphemus used the juice produced from the fig to coagulate the milk and produce cheese in his cave. Aristotle documented fact, in one of his writings, both techniques clotting milk : the coagulation of animal origin and the one with fig juice .
Plato was a great lover of figs, and for this reason he was given the name of "eater of figs." Also recommended to eat this fruit because according to him, helped to strengthen the intelligence.
For the Romans, the fig tree, was a sacred plant as the vine and the olive tree: it is said that during the New Year holidays, as a wish for a happy and prosperous year, they used to give to family and friends, honey and fig fruits. Pliny claimed that eating figs "makes us stronger young people, helps the health of the elderly, and reduces wrinkles."
Also the Phoenicians and Etruscans, are among the oldest populations feeding on figs.
Roses of figs
If you have fresh figs, take them, rinse and dry it with a soft cloth and gently wipe the outside.
Cut into 4 equal parts but without dividing the base (as in the photograph), then open them gently like a flower has four petals and formed with each slice of prosciutto ham a rose, which will place the center of each fig.
Do you know there is no Halloween celebration in Italy?
Highlights of fall are All Saints Day, music festivals, and food festivals including truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, grapes (and wine), chocolate, and even torrone. Opera and theater season starts many places in fall, too. National holidays during fall are All Saints Day on November 1 and Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. On these days, many services will be closed. Around December 8, Italy starts decorating for Christmas and there will be small Christmas markets and many towns set up a nativity scene in a piazza or church.
The vendemmia is the fall grape harvest, an exciting time to be in the wine regions of Italy. While it's hard to predict the exact dates the grape harvest will start since it depends on the grapes reaching their peak of ripeness and that can vary by vineyard, is usually late September and early October. Vino Novello translated means "New Wine" and, according to Italian law, producers can release the wine no earlier than November 6th on the year of harvest. In reality the wine is actually bottled a few weeks after harvest. In the past, farmers used to take wine from the barrels at the end of October simply to check the maturation of the wine. However, in 1999 this young wine was authorized by law to enter the market and wine festivals taking place during November are the perfect place to welcome its arrival. This young wine can be compared to the French "Beaujolais Nouveau", which is also released soon after harvest.
It is not simply the fact that the wine is released early that makes it unique; the actual processing technique differs considerably from that of most wines. The processing procedures require manual harvesting. The grapes are then placed, whole, inside stainless steel tanks where they undergo carbonic maceration (oxygen is eliminated from the tanks and replaced by carbon dioxide and the grapes remain sealed in the tank at a controlled temperature for a period varying from about 8 to 10 days), and the juices undergo fermentation without the assistance of adding yeast. The grape is alive and, because of the actions of natural yeasts and a lack of air, begins to transform all the elements of which it is composed, sugars, acids and mineral salts.
The grapes are then pressed; creating a partially sweet juice that will finish fermenting in another tank. This intercellular fermentation occurring within the berry-results in the formation of a significant quantity of primary odors that constitutes the principal characteristic of vino novello. It is a procedure that is well calibrated to obtain the finest and most intense aromas of the grape. This process goes toward creating a wine that is described as "light, lively and fruity", with it being relatively low in tannins. Consequently, it is not a wine to be aged, as it should be appreciated for the youthful qualities that it possesses.
Roasted chestnuts in the oven
Preheat your oven to 425 F (210 C). Take your chestnuts and make a cut across the round side of each to keep them from exploding, and arrange them either on a rack or on a cookie sheet. I also like to rinse mine in water and live them wet.
Roast them until the skins have pulled back from the cuts and the nutmeats have softened (exactly how long will depend upon the chestnuts, but at least 15-20 minutes). Remove the nuts from the oven, make a mound of them in an old towel, wrap them up, squeeze them hard -- they should crackle -- and let them sit for a few minutes.
Open a bottle of vino Novello (or Beaujolais Nouveau), open the towel, pour yourself a glass, peel the skin off the first chestnut, and enjoy.
We put together the 10 most common mistakes and stereotypes about Italian Cooking abroad...so you can avoid them! Share this note with your friends :)
1- You shall not sip cappuccino during a meal! Coffee and cappuccino are the pride of Italy in the world; but if the first is usually consumed at the end of the meal, the second, more substantial, is sipped at breakfast, usually accompanied by some pastry. You can ask for a cappuccino at the end of a meal, just know that most Italians don’t.
2- Risotto and pasta are NOT a side dish The organization of courses in the Italian dining is unique and requires pasta and – most of the time –risotto to be served by themselves (apart from specific recipes such as Ossobuco milanese-style). The presentation of pasta as a side dish to others is widespread in several countries, but in Italy is seen almost as a sacrilege.
3- You shall not add oil to pasta water!Oil should not be added to pasta cooking water! Pasta dressing (and oil too) must be added only after you have drained it from its cooking water. Find out how to cook pasta like an Italian here.
4- Ketchup on pasta: please, don’t This is one of the combinations that most shocks Italians; although ketchup may have some similarities to tomato sauce, pouring ketchup over pasta in the “Bel Paese” is considered a real gourmet crime. Keep ketchup for your french fries or hot dogs, please!
5- Spaghetti Bolognese? No way, it’s Tagliatelle! While probably being the world’s most popular Italian recipe, you will not find any restaurant in Bologna to eat it. That’s because the original Italian recipe is “Tagliatelle Bolognese” (not spaghetti). Although this may seem a minor detail, in real Italian cuisine the pairing of the right kind of pasta with the right sauce is considered almost sacred.
6- Chicken Pasta: not in Italy Speaking with American friends, one of the most frequent requests is the advice for a typical Italian recipe for pasta with chicken. It’s always rather embarrassing to point out that in Italy there are no hot dishes featuring pasta and chicken.
7- “Caesar salad” This salad, which bears the name of its supposed creator, Caesar Cardini, is a part of the long list of recipes devised by chefs of Italian origin, but in fact is almost unknown in Italy.
8- The red and white checkered tablecloth is only a stereotype !For some strange reason, these tablecloths are universally associated with our food and with the stereotype of the "spaghetti-eater", and abroad almost all the restaurants that want to play typical Italian use them. Probably, tourists who come to visit Italy remain somewhat disappointed when they discover that the checkered tablecloths are almost never used (only restaurants for tourists do!)
9- “Fettuccine Alfredo” are popular only overseas This is perhaps the most curious in this top ten. The fettuccine Alfredo is both the most famous “Italian” food in the United States and the least known dish in Italy. These noodles, seasoned with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, are in fact actually been invented in the “Bel Paese”, specifically by Alfredo Di Lelio, the owner of a restaurant in Rome, but in Italy have never been imposed as a traditional dish. Overseas, however, have become increasingly popular and in time became a symbol of the good life in Rome. For this reason legions of American tourists coming to Italy hoping to enjoy the fettuccine Alfredo at every restaurant on the peninsula remain very disappointed.
10 - You shall respect tradition and what Italian mamma says. She knows from her mamma, who knew from her mamma who knew from her mamma and so on. It's been tried and tested. And what a mother teaches at her daughter while they are cooking? that love is the center of all. We must share Italian food with your loved ones. It is what life, love and family are all about.