Plenty of geese
Plenty of goats
Women feed thy geese.
Women feed thy goats.
Women feed thy selves (As the Italian proverb says: "Tre cose sono cattive magre: oche, femmine e capre" (Three things are bad that are skinny: geese, goats and women!). And yet another says: Fat wife, happy husband, thin wife, unhappy husband. Italian: Moglie grassa, marito allegro - moglie magra marito addolorato.
This month I had the pleasure of translating (with the much needed help from Google's free translation service: www.translate.google.com) an entire book of Italian proverbs and adding them to this website. The book in question, titled: "L'Igiene Della Tavola, dalla bocca del popolo ossia Proverbi che hanno riguardo all'alimentazione Raccolti in varie parti d'Italian ed ordinate par Domenico Giuseppe Bernoni (Venezia: Di Giuseppe Ceccini ec., 1872) includes a wonderful collection of proverbs and sayings on every food related subject imaginable -- from bread, water and wine to digestion (See Italy Revisited/FOLK SAYINGS ON EATING AND DRINKING). Going through the book I learned a lot about the old days and concluded that while some things never change, a lot do. For example back in the 19th century when Bernoni's book was published it seems that fat women were thought of as being very sexy, and skinny women, not so much so. How nice! How civilized! How wonderful! If only our North American advertising industry could come to share this point of view but they won't because it's their job to make women, the majority of whom are not skinny, feel bad about themselves, so that they'll go out and hunt down merchandise that will attempt to change them into something Nature never intended them to be. Too bad.... Going through Bernoni's collection of proverbs (Not all of which I was able to translate, some of the proverbs were way above my head!) I also learned that back in the 19th century (and prior to that too I gather) poor people were pitied (pitied themselves as well) because they had the misfortune of having to eat ricotta and fish. I knew prior to reading this book that those in the countryside didn't take kindly to polenta and "black" bread (preferring highly processed "white" bread) but I had no idea that ricotta and fish (even cod) were also considered undesirable things to eat. It was believed at the time that ricotta made you weak and caused bad dreams. and as for milk, that was poison. If you wanted to stay healthy, "tripe" (sheep belly) was on the list of things to eat: "La trippa è un cibo pregiato, buono al sano e all'ammalato (Tripe is a prized meal, it tastes good and it's good for those who are sick). Beef, veal, lamb and chicken (All meats actually) were considered healthy, as were eggs, of course. As everyone knows garlic was (still is) considered medicinal, as was apparently, rosemary (though not chervil or chives). Also eating uncooked or raw vegetables, especially greens, was seen as a recipe for disaster (Diarrhea etc..).... Imagine what a good laugh these country people would have had if they had known that one day "poor people's food" would become "rich people's food!" Nowadays, "black" bread costs a fortune, and white bread, peanuts. And as for fish and ricotta, they too cost a fortune. Mind you, even though fish was looked down up, those Italians who lived in the interior, also found it expensive. Most country people simply ate the food they themselves grew on their farm. Anyway, not everything has changed. Even in the 19th century it was understood that when you eat beans you should keep away from people (Wasn't considered polite and still isn't considered polite to break wind in company.). For anyone who loves proverbs and folk sayings (I admit I am one such person, loving them more than I do poetry, novels and any other else in print.) Giuseppe Bernoni's
"L'Igiene Della Tavola, dalla bocca del popolo ossia Proverbi che hanno riguardo all'alimentazione," available for free at www.archive.org, is a must read...... Also added to this website this month in the PHOTO ARCHIVES are Tony Alfieri's photos of old kitchenware and agricultural tools presently available in a tiny antique shop in Casacalenda, Molise (See Italy Revisited/Country Antiques). The owner of the shop is Enzo DeRosa. The shop's address is: Via Cesare Battisti # 7; Tel. 0874-841-560.... This month I spent so much time translating proverbs I didn't add all that much to the RECIPE ARCHIVES, though I did add a few personal takes on traditional Southern Italian recipes. I can't keep away from the kitchen because cooking helps me relax, and as I am a nervous person, anything that helps me relax can't but be good. My late husband, a lover of fine food, whom I spent over 30 years trying to please and succeeded I believe, used to often say I had missed my true vocation in life -- I should have been a cook rather than a writer of fables. Oh well.... Here are the recipes I came up with this month which I enjoyed and hopefully anyone who tries them out will as well: Mary's Amaretti Cookies, Mary's Apple & Almond Cake, Mary's Walnut & Dried Currant Cake, Mary's Pistachio & Dried Cranberry Cake and Mary's Cinnamon and Walnut Coffee cake. Have a MERRY Day (No cookies and cakes needed!).