Saturday, July 4, 2015

Party Time

 "Vivere una vita bella." (Live a beautiful life.)  ~ Italian Proverb

One of the great things about growing up in ethnic-heavy Youngstown, Ohio, was the fact that every summer weekend, some nationality or church was having a festival.  The two I remember most vividly were the events sponsored by the Slovak Sokol Club and the Pacentrano Club.  I can still see the girls and women of the Sokol Club dressed in the traditional costumes (The flower wreaths in their hair were my favorites.) and the fireworks that signaled the end of the Italian festival.

I was quite excited last week when I read that Piacenza, a town about 90 minutes from Bologna, was going to be celebrating the feast of its patron saint, Sant' Antonino this weekend.  The big day was today with a fair, food, music, dancing, and religious processions and such.

 Mike and I got up early and headed to Piacenza first thing this morning. We arrived around 9:15 and walked in the direction of the Pubblico Passegio—a long, public pedestrian walkway. We had brought with us two bottles of water which we'd frozen last night so we'd have cold water with us.  Upon our arrival in Piacenza, we still had more than half of a bottle of ice each,. The temperatures were in the high 80s at that point, and in the 20 minutes it took us to walk to the Passegio, our ice had completely melted.

 We walked along the path and found booths like you would find at a county fair in the States.  There were food vendors, but instead of selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and fried Oreos or Snickers, they all sold sausage and peppers, porchetta, and piadine (a typical sandwich of this area).  Most of the 9,325 booths (Ok.  I'm exaggerating, but it was hot, and I was dizzy.) sold clothing (Mike insists 80% sold women's clothes.), shoes, jewelry, and houseware items. There were booths with pitchmen selling everything from pineapple corers (below) to loctite glue to vegetable choppers to mops to ironing board heat reflectors to heaven-knows-what-else.

 If you know me, you know I love gadgets, so the veggie choppers, citrus sprayers, and pineapple corers caught my attention.  The Chopper Speedy and the other choppers are just more manual vegetable choppers. To me, it appeared they would break the minute you used them to chop anything tougher than a tomato with it.  I keep thinking I need the citrus sprayers and juicers.  How cool is it that you can plug a sprayer into a lemon or lime and spray the juice on your salad? (until, of course, the pulp blocks the thing).

 But the pineapple corer was KING.  Chop off the top of the pineapple, stick the corer in place, and turn the handle.  Out come perfect pineapple slices. What's more, you can use the empty pineapple shell to serve fruit salad!!  HOW COOL IS THAT???

Very cool until I buy one and try to use it myself.  For years I wanted a mandoline for the kitchen. I finally got one, and I've never been able to use the stupid thing correctly. I ended up giving it to a friend who loves to cook, too.  I think he had trouble with it, so maybe it's not me.

 At any rate, who would not want one for only 9 euro (or, if you happened to walk farther into the festival, 8 euro each)?  Apparently not many of us because I don't think I saw any of the pineapple corer salesmen sell one item.

 I did really enjoy seeing booths filled with national products such as olives, lupini beans (above), pickled garlic (not that I would ever buy that), dried fruit, anchovies (not that I would even walk near those).  We ended up buying some brigidini, a small, crisp cookie similar to pizelles.  Where pizelles resemble waffles, brigidini resemble overgrown hosts.

 We walked maybe 60% of the festival before stopping at Sapori di Romagna (second photo from the top) for a  porchetta sandwich.  If you have not had porchetta, you are missing one of the great Italian foods.  Porchetta is basically roast pork. That's it.  (You can find a recipe here, but most Italians do not put all that spice on it.) It is the quintessential Italian street food and is available at most towns on market day.

It was noon when we finished lunch, so we headed back to the train station.  The first part of the ride was relatively calm, but when we hit Modena, the crowds descended on us.  There is a huge music festival (La Notte Rossa) this weekend along the coast, and hoards of teenagers from Modena decided to take our train to get there.  There were so many that they had to stand in the aisles of the coaches as there were not enough seats. 

As you probably remember, I am not good with crowds, and when it is hot and sticky, I'm even worse. And, when the idiot sitting next to me takes out his cell phone and loudly talks nonstop for 35 minutes, my nerves start to fray.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about my verbal scuffle with said idiot.

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