Every time I see a chicken I smile. You might ask yourself why? Well it reminds me of my maternal Nonna Rosa.
When I was growing up in Messignadi in Calabria, my family had a piece of land in the heart of the village.
We used to call it “Darretu e lavari” (Behind the olive tree). Nonno Rocco would have his cute vegie patch ( but this will be a blog on it’s on) and Nonna had her small chicken farm.
First thing every morning she would go to look after her chickens.
On school holidays she would bring us kids with her. I remember the first job was picking the fresh eggs, or what we would call it COCO’.
Let’s not forget it was 11 of us from the age of 12 to the age of 2, so this meant we would have to take turns in picking the eggs and place them in the cane basket (u panaru made by Nonno ) that she would hold .
Once the eggs were picked she would take them into the small farm house (a casetta) and give us one each to drink. We would wait excited as she would make two holes one on each end of the egg and we would drink it.
She then would return to her chickens to give them fresh food and fresh water while we would play in the swings that nonno had installed for us from a few huge olive trees.
Every time after the chickens had finished their meals, Nonna would open the gate to let them free for a few hours. And this was where the magic would happen.
Chicken and chicks would form a line and would follow Nonna around the farm.
We were too young to realise that what we were witnessing wasn’t a normal thing.
At the end of the day she would call back her chickens and one by one they would return inside their domain.
Something similar is happening with the new generation. My mother has four chickens, and my dad built them the Taj Mahal of the chicken world.
Though I am pretty sure my mum doesn’t walk with her chicken following her, I know that every morning she visit them with my niece, little Ariana picks the eggs then they go back into the kitchen and the little one has a fresh egg….. but don’t tell my sister.
When signora Enza said she was going to bring some Carciofi (artichokes) for mum I never expected a table full of it.
I’m not going to just post photos and giving you the recipe, you must live step by step what I had lived.
Once the artichokes where on the table my mum asked me to help cleaning them. Sure, I can wash them …… Boy was I wrong! She told me that I would have to pull out by hands all bottom leave and to watch out for thorns !!My heart stopped for a moment, oh my God I was going to work no stop for 24 hours. Lucky for me mum’s friends come to my rescue.
After the bottoms leaves were cleaned, with a knife we had to sharpe the bottom, then cut in half or quoters. We got a big bin and we half filled with water, then cut about 20 lemons in half, placed in the water together with the artichokes. We covered the bin and left to rest overnight.
The next morning we drained the artichokes. In a big pot we put on the boil 2L of water and 2L of vinegar and salt. We then added the artichokes and brought to boil for 5 to 10 minutes.
We drained them and in the mean time we cut some garlic, oregano and we mixed it with the artichokes. Then placed them in jars with olive oil. And Ecco ready to eat.
Having the luck of been born in a Calabrese family I have learned from a young age what it means sharing the love for the family, the culture and the good food.
The family is everything, and without a family we wouldn’t feel completed. The culture is very important as it teaches us our roots and the love for our land. Food is essential, not only for survival but is the glue that keeps families together when sharing a meal.
From a very early age I remember getting together with all my cousins and uncles and aunties at Nonno Rocco and Nonna Rosaria house. It wasn’t a quite affair as we were 27 all together, but you could feel the love.
Nonno would sit at the head of the table, of course nonna’s spot was next to him on his right. In front of him he would have his glass of wine and a little jug with peperoncino ( chillies).
He would wait until the last one would sit, and only then he would let nonna serve him. ( Nonno was a good husband and most of the times he would wash the dishes for us)
Everyone would participate at the conversation, but us children knew that when it was an adults topic we would just listen without interrupting.
We would make from a simple meal a feast, and the secret ingredient? The love and respect we all had for each other.
I experienced the same in my parent’s home, and proudly I continued this tradition with my children.
Yes the family is definitely everything and the food that we share is the magic portion that we need to keep going
If I close my eyes I can’t still hear the voices, smell the food and feel the happiness I felt then.
Nonno and Nonna are no longer with us, but what they left is their legacy on the most important thing. La Famiglia ~ the Family