Monday, March 15, 2010

Bourcet... the plains calls the mountains and some surprising treats


 I so forget that going to Italian events are sometimes not exactly what I am expecting. I don't always pay close attention to the details before hand and Fabrizio can be a little thin on the explanations as well, so they tend to be a surprise or at least have some surprising elements to the events. With a rather oblique title as the plains calls to the mountains, we headed out of our valley to the plains to celebrate the mountains. I concluded it was an eating event. I wasn't really sure what to expect.
What I have come to expect is that when you least expect it, there will be a political angle to many public events. Sometimes in the most unlikely circumstances. So we arrived in Carignano,  a lovely old town with some beautiful historic buildings, and a town hall that is jarringly modern and seemingly out of place. For me it isn't a brilliant fit, but it is large and able to accommodate an art display showing off the various talents of the citizens of Bourcet, in addition to some of its history.
There was a reception of refreshments of very interesting offerings, but before we got to sample anything at all, it was a long round of speeches from both sides of the political divide. I never cease to be amazed at how everything in Italy is tied to the political system. There was a lot of hand shaking and talk of what needs to be done to support the people living the mountains and all, and it is close to regional elections, so that is somewhat to be expected. It was interesting for awhile but my attention span is very short as the Italian is a bit complicated, so I was greatly relieved when we got to the reception, the nibbling, the drinking, the mingling and perusal of the art display.
Traditional upper Val Chisone costume
Bonnet detail

Upon sampling the various breads, cheese and biscotti, which went down well with a delicate sparkling wine, I became curious about what everything being served was exactly. Although familiar, they all had a slightly different take on it and not quite familiar. It turns out that one of the local women had done some experimenting to make some modern updates on some old favorite recipes using the readily available specialties of the high mountains, potatoes, honey and lentils.
The potato marmalade was delicious, especially with the local Toma cheese dipped in it. It had the look and texture of applesauce and the distinct flavor of mountain mixed floral honey. 
These traditional ciambelle looked like whole wheat fried doughnuts, but turns out they were baked lentil cakes, light and fragrant with the mountain honey again. I never would have guessed lentils. I will be on a quest to make these as I found them intriguing and light. 
I was really surprised when I discovered that these tasty Riccioli biscotti were made from the different types of potatoes. The dark ones were not chocolate as they seemed, but were made from the deep purple potatoes. Surprising and delightful.  I love when food is surprising and evolved from the traditional certainties. That is how food becomes favorites after all. experimentation and accidental discoveries.  It does seem that for many it is sacrilege to mess with tradition, so I do appreciate the bold steps of the adventuresome cooks and applaud their boldness, especially when the results are so fabulous. I look forward to sampling more of their fare the next time we get to one of their mountain festivals. It is something to really look forward to, as we wouldn't want to miss it. See you there.
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