Letters’ Anniversary 2016

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Appetibilis Letters’ Anniversary

Words don’t come easy, an old 80’s tune said. Not for us here at Appetibilis. Words come far too easy because – I soon realised – when I devised the idea of this Appetibilis column, it was no use following the draft I had written. Suggestions, ideas, hints, tips arrived from everything and everyone and it was hard to keep the pace. The letters listed below are just the tip of the iceberg: many more will come, from A for Abbacchio to Z for Zimino.
Read and taste, buon appetito!

In alphabetical order 😉

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“Alfresco”…

Letter “A” :: “Alfresco” or “Al fresco”? Stai fresco! In these days temperatures range from 28 to 36 degrees Celsius (82 to 96 Fahrenheit) and everybody is looking for some “fresco”, i.e. some cool air/location…

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(in) Bianco…

Letter “B” :: (in) Bianco. When we talk about food and cooking, the word “bianco” (white) is frequently used in the phrase “in bianco”…

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“Confetti”…

Letter “C” :: Did you say “Confetti”? The word confetti /kənˈfetiː/ is synonym for celebration. But don’t get confused with those tiny colourful paper shreds that are thrown at parties…

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Cavoli…

Letter “C” :: Cavoli (a merenda). “Cavolo” (stress on the “a”) i.e. cabbage is a common and healthy ingredient in many recipes of the Italian cuisine…

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Moka…

Letter “M” :: Set the Moka on fire! In every single Italian house there is – at least – one. More often than not, many of them, in different sizes…

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Panettone…

Letter “P” :: Panettone or Pandoro? In Italy, the holiday season brings – along with the huge amount of to-dos everybody knows – the Hamletic doubt: panettone or pandoro…

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Stoccafisso…

Letter “S” & “B” :: Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà “Bacalà (one “c”) alla vicentina” is one of the signature dishes of Italian cooking heritage…

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Ventricina…

Letter “V” :: Ven…tricina. Charles De Gaulle used to wonder how anyone can govern a nation – i.e. France – that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese…

Letter “P” :: Panettone or Pandoro?

In Italy, the holiday season brings – along with the huge amount of to-dos everybody knows – the Hamletic doubt: panettone or pandoro. Italians, from icy Alto Adige to warm Sicily, split into two parties: Panettone supporters and Pandoro fans.

The only thing both parties agree on is that both cakes are meant to be offered during Christmas time. No other time is allowed. Soon after January 6th they become outdated. Everything else is open to an endless declination of variants.

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The name Panettone is the corruption of the phrase Pan de Toni (Toni’s bread). Toni was a scullion at Ludovico Maria Sforza’s palace. Legend says that on Christmas night the duke of Milan invited the most important patricians of the town. His cook had been given the task to create a new cake that was meant to leave his guests astonished. He actually made it, but he forgot it in the oven and the cake got burnt. The humble scullion suggested to make another cake with the things they had available in the pantry. The cake was a success and when the Duke asked for the name, the cook simply said: “è il pan de Toni” (it’s Toni’s bread). So the legend goes. Panettone, in its standard and traditional recipe, includes, besides flour, eggs and raisins, candied citron and lemon peels in the dough.

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Pandoro (literally, “golden bread”) is typical of Verona. It features its unmistakable 8-pointed-star shape – while panettone has a round shape topped by a dome. It is simpler than panettone (no raisins, no candied fruits), just a generous dusting of powdered sugar (zucchero a velo) on top of it just before serving. Some say it is the new version of the XII century Verona cake “Nadalin”. Others say that the name refers to the habit of Venetian Republic well-off people of offering food covered with a golden foil, in order to show off wealth and power. A cake with a conic shape – pan de oro – is said to be offered at rich merchants’ table. These are just theories, but pandoro, actually, can boast a date of birth: October 14, 1884, when Domenico Melegatti, pastry chef in Verona, patented the first pandoro as we know it today.

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This is what the tradition says: but today the manufacturers’ imagination have added so many variants that – sometimes – it is hardly impossible to recognize the original cake. Chocolate, egg cream, liquor, everything-you-can-think-of. Every year there is a new fad (I remember with horror the 90’s fashion of stuffing  panettone with heavy and questionable liquor-scented creams or custards…)

Supporters of each cake are equally divided, each of them brings forth their reasons to catch new adepts to their cause. Appetibilis suggestion is simple: try both of them (just a slice, they are calorie bombs) and have a glass of “bollicine” with them. It is mandatory 😉

And let’s get the party started!

Letter “S” & “B” :: Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà

Letters from Italy :: "S" & "B" :: Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà | photo: ©Lonza65
Letters from Italy :: “S” & “B”
Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà | photo: ©Lonza65

“Bacalà (one “c”) alla vicentina” is one of the signature dishes of Italian cooking heritage. The funny thing about it is that the main ingredient – “bacalà” – is not what people usually mean i.e. salted codfish, but Stockfish – i.e. dried cod.

This misunderstanding started in XV century with Venetian merchant Messer Piero Querini, whose fleet was shipwrecked on the Lofoten Island coast. There he and his crew tasted “stokkfiss” for the first time.

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However the Italian word “stoccafisso” describes the dried fish for all the Italians and “baccalà” for salted cod. People from Veneto, instead, say bacalà (one “c” only, don’t forget) to indicate the dried stockfish.
Quite a mess, I admit. The reason for this misunderstanding is not clear, but now it is too late to worry about it.

Just keep in mind that if you’re visiting Venice or the Veneto, bacalà is stockfish and you’ll never be caught off guard.

Letters from Italy :: "S" & "B" :: Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà | photo: ©ockstyle
Letters from Italy :: “S” & “B” :: Stoccafisso vs Ba(c)calà | photo: ©ockstyle

“Bacalà, baccalà, stoccafisso” are tasty, healthy and ingredients for yummy dishes and for funny but not exactly flattering idioms.
“Fare la figura del baccalà” is not quite a compliment, since it means to act like a fool, while “restare come un baccalà” is when you stay still because you are unable to react. “Stoccafisso” is used to describe a gangly, thin and somewhat clumsy person – “sembra uno stoccafisso” (he looks like a twig).

More info about “bacalà alla vicentina” and its Brotherhood “La Confraternita del Bacalà” (in italian)