Carne Cruda

meat2.jpgOkay, so this entry isn’t exactly next in chronological order, but I have all the pictures ready to go and can’t wait to tell you the story (and besides, it’s my weblog and I don’t have to go in chronological order if I don’t want to. mwah hahahhahaaha). Anyways…

A few weeks ago Carmela (of the circolo) invited us to go meat shopping with her. The special thing about this particular trip was that the market we went to was actually a local farmer’s house. They raise animals (all sorts!) and when they need money (or perhaps for some other reasons that remain secrets), they butcher one of their animals and sell it to the community (read: friends and family).

So, it’s 9:30 on a Wednesday night and we’re driving up one of the treacherous winding roads that weave through the Piemontese hillsides. These roads are actually two way streets, but there’s no way to tell until you see another car heading straight towards you (very skinny, no lines, barely paved). After a while we pull onto another road in even worse condition which turns out to be the farmer’s driveway. (It’s dark folks, electricity is costly here!).


I am seriously not exaggerating when I tell you that we were greeted by twelve barking dogs. (How many can you find in the picture at the top?) And I’m sure they had more somewhere else (in fact, there were two more strictly house dogs inside). The whole family greets us with Buona Sera(s) and kisses (when saying hello and good-bye everyone gets two kisses–one on each cheek, usually air kisses).


We go inside to their living room where they’ve set up a 10 foot table and a meat slicer. The table is covered with various and asundry cuts of meat (veal to be exact). Carmela (wearing orange in the previous picture) and the other woman that was there immediately starting picking which cuts they wanted and piling them in a big plastic bucket and some random bags. When they were finished there, Ines took us into the garage, where they had set up another ten foot long table that was also covered with meat and bones (note the nooses and wall of tools in the background).

We went through the same process in this room and when we were done making our selections the son (who looks unlike any 27 year old I’ve ever met) brought out the grinder and grinded up the parts we needed ground.

The Son & The Grinder


Then we headed back into the living room where he took out a big saw and started hacking though the bones we had chosen to take home for stock. Ines (the farmer’s wife) started cutting up the bigger pieces of meat we had chosen and tied them with string so we could more easily use them for roasts, etc.

When that was all done, we hauled all our purchases into the garage and put them on the scale. I was suprised to discover that the meat was not especially cheap.

After shopping they took us round back and showed us their sheep and goats who had just had babies the day before. This is by far the most memorable food shopping experience I’ve had here. I mean, I visited every open air market in a two hour radius last week, so I’ve got some shopping experience under my belt, but this night of meat…we just don’t have anything like this in the United States…do we?

P.S. For an update on my social life, see Roomies Around the World.

Little Caesar’s For Seafood Lovers

scampi.bmpRemember Little Caesar’s “Pizza, Pizza!” campaign? Well, you may not know it, but you Shrimp Scampi lovers out there are following right in Caesar’s footsteps when you order that molto tipico Italian-American dish.

Scampi in Italian actually means “shrimp”, so when you order “Shrimp Scampi”, you’re really ordering “shrimp shrimp”!

Next time you order, try doing it in Italian; instead of asking for the Shrimp Shrimp, you might say:

Prendo i scampi, per favore. Or

E per me, i scampi. Grazie.

Grocery Shopping in Piemonte: Smorgusborgattoria

Here are some key markets you’ll need to familiarize yourself with if you plan on food shopping in Piemonte (remember to pronounce all the ones with “ia” on the end like you would pizzeria):

Supermercato — Profoundly uninteresting grocery stores with a limited selection of goods.
Bottiglieria — Buy wine, water, beer, juice, and other beverages here.
Caseficio — Cheese producer
Confetteria — Candy shop
Drogheria — Dry goods (from cereal to soap); selection varies from town to town.
Latteria — Dairy shop; fresh cream, butter, yogurt, etc.
Panetteria — Bread shop
Pasticceria — Pastry shop: cookies, cakes, and chocolates are available at most of these stores.
Pastificio — Pasta store
Pescheria — Fish monger
Polleria — Poultry store: Birds galore, most still wearing feathers.
Salumeria — Salami: cold cuts, etc.
Tabaccaio — These stores do sell tabacco, but also sell salt, stationary and stamps.
Torrefazione — The store of a professional coffee roaster. Buy whole beans, grind as needed.
Paninoteca — Sandwhich shop
Mercato — An open market found one or two days a week in big cities.

Multicultural Imbibing

Here’s a serious drink recipe, compliments of Bouchon LV. Be forewarned, this clean, bright, mildly sweet, herbacious drink is not for the light of heart. The salt and brininess of the cornichon kick the flavors up a notch.

The name refers to a variety of nationalities hanging out together– something that often happens in the modern-day bistro and the French Foreign Legion Military.

Foreign Legion

Grey Goose
Tanqueray 10
Splash of Amaretto
Generous pinch of Fleur de Sel

1. Combine all ingredients in a pint glass. Shake vigorously with ice. Pour into Martini glass and garnish with a cornichon. Designed for serious cocktail drinkers.

On Becoming A Culinarian

There’s an old Italian saying that I came across the other day;
Bisogna mangiare per vivere, e non vivere per mangiare.
(One should eat to live, and not live to eat).

And I thought to myself, e non vivere per mangiare–but that’s what I’m dedicating my career and life to right now–the discovery, understanding and appreciation of FOOD! This saying goes against my profession entirely!

Then I stepped back for a moment and came to the conclusion that I’m not living to eat for my own enjoyment (though I will certainly sample and enjoy as many tasty morsels as I can get my hands on!), but rather, I am living to help other people enjoy their food more. I think there’s an important difference there.

Confucius taught that “A man should not eat so much that his breath smells more of meat than of rice”, but he didn’t say anything along the lines of “A man should not dedicate his life to preparing meat and rice so others can not help but surrender to their tastebuds and beg for more.”

Now, if I can just figure out how to not get reincarnated as a duck on a foie gras farm I’ll be all set…

Capers, Demystified

caper.jpgScientifically speaking, capers are the pea-sized, unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa (Capparidaceae), a shrub prevalent in the Mediterranean region. Caper berries are the fruit of this same shrub. If you’ve never seen them, this picture is to-scale and shows their actual size.

Let’s break it down one time… So there’s this bush, right–the caper bush. It’s a flowering bush. Capers, the tiny little green balls you find pickled in jars, and caper berries, the slightly larger, berryish-looking green things also sold–stem intact–pickled in jars, are both this bush’s flower — cultivated before the flower had a chance to bloom. Tricky, huh?

It’s really not that tricky! Capers are the bud at earliest stage of development while caper berries are the bud at a later stage of development. So if you’ve got a bud at stage one, it’s a caper. If you’ve got a bud at stage two, it’s a caper berry. If you let that bud grow even more you would have a caper flower. Get it?

Good. Want to read more? Check out this article. Insider’s Tip: Use deep-fried capers as a canape garnish. Capers are delicious when deep-fried. They open up into beautiful little flowers that impart loads of flavorful salty goodness (thanks to their pickling process and their close relation to the cabbage/mustard family–Brassicaceae).

P.S. (Who knew that cabbage and mustard were in the same family?!)

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