Storia dell’alimentazione: come si mangiava in passato… parte II
Nella seconda parte del nostro articolo su come si mangiava in passato, continuiamo a curiosare nella storia dell’alimentazione.
Durante il periodo del medioevo, intorno al 5° secolo d.C. iniziarono le invasioni barbariche e iniziarono a scomparire le coltivazioni del tempo. I saccheggi spaventavano gli abitanti, che fuggivano nelle campagne, cosa che portò una rapida involuzione dell’economia.
Purtroppo nel ceto povero era comune la malnutrizione vista la scarsa qualità e quantità di cibo disponibile a loro. Con il tempo si svilupparono usi e tradizioni gastronomiche diverse in tutta Italia, dovuto alle invasioni degli anni precedenti con le loro diverse influenze straniere, e il frazionamento poi politico del paese.Con il Rinascimento arrivarono sulle tavole la forchetta, il bicchiere, gli stuzzicadenti, il tovagliolo. In cucina, invece, si iniziarono ad usare le rotelle tagliapasta, i crivelli, i setacci, ed i spremilimoni. Naquero categorie professionali per maggiordomi, trincianti, bottiglieri. Arrivarono nuovi metodi di cottura, come il bagnomaria, le stufature in speciali pentole, e nuove preparazioni nel campo della pasticceria come le prime paste sfoglie e frolle.Con la scoperta dell’America arrivarono in Europa le patate, i fagioli, il cacao, il peperone, il pomodoro, il tacchino, il riso, e il mais. . .
Chi ha la fortuna di andare a Bevagna, in provincia di Perugia, nel mese di Giugno, può assistere alla manifestazione chiamata Il Mercato delle Gaite, dove vengono ricreati i mercati e i mestieri umbri del 1200. Vengono allestite le botteghe dei mestieri medievali dove si ricreano minuziosamente e in modo scenografico le antiche arti, nonchè la preparazione del pane e la birra. Ecco un assaggio dell’evento:
Per quel che riguarda, invece, le tradizioni regionali gastronomiche in Italia, e per chi ha più tempo da dedicare alla cucina, ecco invece i strozzapreti semi-integrali al sugo.
L’origine del nome strozzapreti non è chiara ma la leggenda vuole che le donne romagnole preparavano questo tipo di pasta per offrirla al prete del paese, mentre i mariti, che amavano un po’ meno la figura ecclesiastica, erano soliti augurare al prete di “strozzarsi” mentre si gustava la minestra.
Per la ricetta e dettagli ecco il link:
How did one eat in the past?… part two
Polenta with veggies and semi-whole wheat strozzapreti with sauce
In the second part of our article on how one ate in the past, we continue to browse around in the history of food.
During the second part of the Middle Ages, around the 5th century A.D. due to the barbarian invasions, agriculture started to disappear. The plundering frightened the inhabitants, who began to seek refuge in the countryside, so there was a quick involution of the economy. The only places where a bit of variety of food and spices could be found was in the monasteries and abbeys. With time the situation began to improve and sugar, rice, some citrus fruits and spices, which had disappeared from the tables since the fall of the Roman Empire, returned on the scene.
Towards the end of the year 1000, farmers went back to cultivating their fields and the use of eggs started to spread. Pigs were one of the most common animals used for food, every part of it could be used and it was easy to preserve. There was a lot of game, which was roughly cooked on spits and spiced with the herbs. There was cheese, some vegetables, bread, eggs, and beer, cider and wine. The wine was produced using wooden barrels, which really improved its quality.
Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of food available to them, malnutrition was rampant among the poor. Culinary customs and traditions in Italy began with the arrival of gastronomic diversity, brought by the populations that had invaded the country and which brought with them their own cultures. The Italian regional typicality began based on what area of the country was invaded by whom.
The Renaissance brought with it the use of forks, glasses, toothpicks and napkins. Different utensils, such as pasta cutters, sifters, strainers and lemon squeezers, appeared in the kitchens. The first professional categories were created for butlers, meat carvers and bottle managers. New methods of cooking and baking began too, such as bain-marie, stewing in special pots, and the preparation of puff and shortcrust pastry.
With the discovery of America many new products, such as potatoes, beans, cocoa, bell peppers, tomatoes, turkey, rice and corn arrived in Europe. Some of these simply remained a curiosity and were only available to the wealthy people, but some of them soon became a staple part of the farmers’ daily diet. Corn for example, which the ancient Mayas had cultivated about three thousand years ago. This coarse yellow grain quickly gained the appreciation of the northern part of Italy and in the local dialect of the north was called granoturco, sweetcorn. It helped solve the problem of malnutrition among the poor, and was eaten as a polenta, cornmeal mush, or shaped into small savoury squares. It provided a good source of protein but it was still necessary to complete a meal with other foods in order to have a balanced diet. It was served with sausages, beans, cheese… the dish of the poor which today is widely appreciated by many foodies.
The use of coffee began to spread in the upper classes, even though it was expensive, together with tea and chocolate to which sugar and honey was added to make a delicious beverage. In the 18th century, France began to produce liquors, bubbly wine or champagne, consommé, bèchamel, and spread the tradition of fine dining and cooking as a refined art.
Meals were a time for conviviality and the first trattoria, eating house, opened which soon became extremely popular in all of Italy, along with the specialized workshops for coffee and chocolate. Large ancient Roman-style, Middle Ages-style and Renaissance-style banquets were soon replaced by more intimate gatherings. The main meals were still lunch and dinner, and the typical menus were meat soup with vegetables, baked pasta, sliced cold meats and bread for lunch, while on the dinner tables one could find risotto, boiled meats, fried meats or fish, roast meats, cheese, bread and dessert. All this accompanied by homemade wines and water.
Those who have the pleasure of visiting Bevagna, in the province of Perugia, in the month of June, can enjoy a fantastic event, Il Mercato delle Gaite, a live re-creation of the Umbrian open markets of the 1200s. One can walk through the streets and admire the craft-makers at work, see people in the dress and fashion of the time showing how bread and beer was made, all in a beautiful setting.
Seeing how important corn was in food history, today we wish to suggest a simple and yummy recipe for little polenta disks with veggies. One doesn’t always have the time to prepare and enjoy a steaming hot, delicious dish of polenta with all the trimmings we mentioned above. Many people are usually in a hurry and eat something quick… or they are counting calories… or just don’t like meat. Well, sometimes it’s not such a bad idea to use the instant polenta we find on the market. They are easy to use and you can follow the instructions on the box.
We prepared and cooked our polenta, poured it in a casserole dish, levelled it out and left it to cool. Then we cut it into shapes, put these on a plate and decorated them with our favourite vegetables! Can it be any simpler?
With regard to the diversity in regional culinary traditions in Italy, and for those of who have more time to spend in the kitchen, here are the semi-whole wheat strozzapreti (priest chokers!). These are a twisted pasta about 7-8 centimetres long, and the legend says that when they were first made by the housewives in the Romagna region of Italy, they were served to the local priests. The husbands of these ladies, who didn’t care much for the clergy, wished they would “choke” while eating them. It is also said that this pasta was so delectable and was served only to priests who devoured them quickly, gorging themselves to the point of almost choking to death. Our pasta is a bit longer and resembles the bigoli made in the Veneto region, or the lombrichelli made in the northern area of the Lazio region. One thing is for sure, it is easy to make… a pasta that is delicious, versatile and goes well with a meat sauce, with porcini mushrooms, with seafood or a simple basil sauce.
Recipe for 4 people:
150 grams of whole wheat flour
150 grams of durum wheat flour
For the sauce:
A clove of garlic
We mix all the ingredients, adding the water slowly, and knead the dough then let it sit for a while at room temperature covered with a kitchen cloth. Then we use a pasta machine (we used Imperia, TRENETTE size blade), cut the dough into small slices, roll them in flour and boil in salted water. In the meanwhile, we’ve prepared a simple tomato sauce by putting olive oil in a large pan and adding the garlic then the chopped fresh tomatoes, the salt and the basil. We drain the pasta, add the sauce and before serving we decorate it with a few fresh leaves of basil.