Snapshots from Italy: Alto-Adige
Rather than sharing recipes – which would be silly considering I haven’t actually cooked anything since arriving in Italy – I’ll share some possibly relevant and/or inspiring tidbits from Italy’s diversissimi culinary cultures. My lack of cooking can be explained by any number of things – from sheer laziness to Bologna’s stifling heat to her abundance of piadina, squaquerone and mortadella. Over the weekend we escaped the mortadella to cooler weather in the gorgeous area around Siusi allo Sciliar in South Tirol-Alto Adige, where Francesco spent every summer as a child.
After just a three hour drive from Bologna, it was like we were in a different country. A German-speaking, wurst-eating, leder-hosen wearing country.
I’ve come to love trips to Siusi, which is the last little town before the enormous Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest Alpine plain (think: The Sound of Music). The whole Alpe seemed to be in bloom with wild rhododendron, chive flowers and buttercups. Each day after a fortifying breakfast of apple strudel, we would walk for hours, even climbing to an altitude of 2,300 meters (which is like 838,219 feet) before stopping for lunch at a malga, a refuge, which are actually more like full-functioning restaurants. Lots of the malga only open in the summer months – when the residents from the towns below come up to the Alpe to graze their cows – and most serve truly delicious food.
A highlight, even if I can’t stomach a whole glass, is the fresh milk, practically still warm.
And then there are the canederli allo speck – much like the Jewish candelach but full of smoked bacon – served in broth or in a sauce of just-caught game or fresh-picked porcini.
The malghe serve spaetzle and wurst and schüttelbrot – fried eggs with hash browns and speck (the cousin of a classic American breakfast) – and lots and lots of beer. Once you’ve got your fill and rested your legs, then come the sweets. The world-famous strudel; my personal favorite, torta di grano saraceno (which I made here); and the star of the show, kaiserschmarrn, a thick, broken crepe/omelet topped with lingonberry sauce and icing sugar (which was gone so fast I didn’t get a picture).
After lunch, and perhaps a quick snooze, we’d be off again.
Walking in the clouds and thinking of the next meal.