09 August 2010
The big (eating) day: An Abruzzo wedding menu
So we did it. We are married and it was fantastic, emotional, uplifting, exhilarating all all sorts of words like that from beginning to end. We all walked to the church together (apart from Mr. Graphic Foodie who was waiting in the church alone), we had buckets of rice thrown at us (found rice in all sorts of places, I tell ya), sawed logs (yup), threw money from balconies, traipsed through the pine forests (collecting grasshoppers under my dress - eek), fished some of our guests out of the swimming pool, danced like it was 1999 until were carried out of the reception on people's shoulders at silly o'hour the following morning.
But the main thing was we ate. A lot. As I was off duty from blogging for the day, I was so chuffed looking round and seeing friends and family taking shots of the food for the blog! You guys know me so well!
So really, I'd thought I'd share with you the typical eating at a big fat Abruzzo Italian wedding. Take a deep breath...
Before the wedding, people meet at the bride's house and get to eat a load of pastries.
All the women in the village make a tray or two which sounds like a lovely thing to do, but what it really is is an unofficial and highly competitive bake-off where they try and outdo one another. There can be only one winner. We had about 40 trays of pastries and cakes of all description.
Hence why we all need to walk to the church.
After the church ceremony, we go to the groom's "house" and do the same thing!
Then we head to the reception where we had bellini's and canapes. Sadly I didn't get to sample any but I did spy deep-fried, breaded olives - my favourite! All of the food, with just a few exceptions, had been sourced locally and is typical of the Abruzzo region, with quite a few of my beloved peasant dishes featuring.
The antipasto arrived in 3 separate parts, earning wide-eyed looks from our British friends who squeakily demanded to know if each of the 9 courses were 3 courses in themselves.
The cured meats are famous around here for a reason, and the hand carved prosciutto was a nice touch in addition to the machine sliced stuff because you have to have TWO different cuts of it for a decent antipasto. There was also a separate plate of bresola.
Not much to look at but I loved this baked artichoke the best:
The below was not a meatball but an unusual cheese and maize dumpling, served with a stuffed mushroom:
This was a mixture of fried lamb offal (Curatella di Agnello) in sauce to finish off the "starter". Delicious!
It 'aint no wedding without wedding soup. Our regional version is made with veal and pork meatballs in a hearty stock with just egg as its companion (they call this Straciatella). Always goes down a storm here, as it's ram-packed with flavour.
Kicking off the pasta courses was a nice lasagna primavera with spring vegetables, mushrooms and more pork and veal.
Spaghetti a la chitarra is made using a contraption like guitar strings (hence "chitarra") where the pasta is pushed through, creating square edge spaghetti. Always served with a classic meat ragu.
This Veal with a white wine sauce is a favourite dish of mine. We had loads of grilled vegetables with this one.
Lamb "scottadito" means lamb "burn your fingers" as it is so delicious that people can't wait for it to come off the grill, resulting in burned fingers! Wherever you go in Abruzzo, you will not be far from somewhere serving lamb like this. The roast potatoes dripping in olive oil and scented with rosemary were to die for. Squeeze of lemon juice and all is good with the world.
As I knew I wouldn't get a pretty tiered wedding cake in Italy, I constructed a sort-of tiered cake with local cheeses, the base being a half meter wide Parmigiano, the middle containing my favourite Pecorino cheese and a Caciocavallo. The rest of the cheese was brought out separately on trays as to make it all into a "cake" would have been like the leaning tower of freaking Pisa.
The five vegetarians were really well catered for I thought (tricky in this meat loving neck of the woods), and had replacement dishes for all the meat, not that they were needed. This would be a post in itself but artichoke pasta, risottos and grilled scamorza cheese were provided.
We waddled outside for the (disaster) wedding cake which will be a whole post of its own. Let's say it wasn't tiered but there was almost tears. I think I'm swearing in the picture below.
You have to have fruit to "end" the meal and the venue owner insisted on "Lui e Lei" pineapple. As I gave him zero input on the menu so far, I let him have this one. It turned out to be a whole quarter of pineapple per person, cut into slices and zig-zagged, hence "His and Her" (no I still don't get it either.)
A lot of arm-flaying, leg-kicking dancing ensued but people were kept topped up throughout the evening with about 10 meters of village-lady pastries and a 45kg porchetta spiced pig.
I had sensibly ordered a 20kg pig but my family, thinking everyone would die starving, changed it to this beast. Amazingly all that remained the day after was this, which I found in a box in the kitchen. Lovely:
Big love to Dave, Jyoff, Kate and Katharina for the pics of the food. And thanks to all our family and friends who came from England (and Singapore, Kenya and Tanzania) and coped with us arm-flaying, loud and emotional Italians. I was particularly proud of all of you for getting through this meal, you impressed my family no end!
Lastly, thanks to Mr. Graphic Foodie (shown above in the middle, being made to saw a log in the church garden in the blistering heat (surprise!) to prove his masculinity or something). You eat like no other and really are my best friend. And you're also pretty good at sawing logs in half it seems - you never fail to surprise me.