|Seuppa valpellenentze ready to go in the oven|
Most villages, small or large, have a community bread oven, and they are generally fired up during two periods of the year: winter and summer. In my village of Charvensod, during most of November local families can sign up to use the oven at certain times, and small groups get together to put hundreds of loaves into the oven each day so that people have enough black bread to last the year. There are also festivals celebrating black bread, and they generally happen in December/January and July/August. My sister Rita was visiting in August of this year, and I dragged her (willingly) to one of these festivals, to the "Fiha di pan ner" in the village of Introd, which is in the famous Gran Paradiso Park.
These local festivals are simply fabulous. They usually involve a lot of local red wine, copious amounts of food fired in the wood oven, farmers wearing pajamas and mullets, and a lone accordion player playing cheesy music. I simply love them!
It turns out that we got there about 10 hours early for the party....but just in time to help with making the bread. We found the community bread oven in a little strip mall, right by the village's ATM machine. We peeked around shyly, looking at the oven and sneaking looks inside the room where older members of the community were kneading bread, when a man invited us inside and insisted we share a big cup of wine with him (it was 10 am!), along with generous slices of bread fresh out of the oven and local Fontina cheese. They had just finished one batch of bread in the oven, and the next batch was going through its first rise. The wine-welding man, Pietro, was making seuppa valpellenentze, a black bread, cabbage, and Fontina soup that is baked in the wood fired oven, and proceeded to tell some off color jokes involving his sausages.
|Morning glass of wine|
|For some reason I got a kick out of the implements they use to clean the oven|
|Franco explaining to me the finer points of kneading|
|The ladies were amused by my sister....|
|I hope to be like these ladies some day......|
|Olimpia deftly scores the loaves|
|The men shovel loaves into the oven|
|I turned this into dinner later on|
They chatted in the Patois dialect, which I don't' understand much of, and occasionally switched into Italian. Being that they were all from older generations, they didn't speak a word of English, so Rita was out of luck. So what they did was make funny faces at her, which was pretty hilarious.
We helped all day until we got all 110 loaves of bread that we helped make into the massive community oven. We couldn't stay for the party that night because we actually had to help friends bake bread in their smaller wood fired oven at their house.
Here are some video clips I took while a group of kids were there helping out: