Italy has a referendum on Sunday, December 4th.
When people ask me for whom I will vote for, I tell them the truth: I have yet to decide who to vote for. I have been dwelling on it for days. What I really want to tell them is that it is none of their business for whom I am going to vote for. When I ask people why they are voting yes/no, most tell me that their political party affiliation endorsed the yes or no. Is that a good enough reason, I wonder. Most people have no idea what this referendum is all about. Unfortunately, it encompasses several choices which the current government has ‘conveniently’ packed together in a general yes/no. We do need change in Italy, maybe this could be a start. Our unemployment rate is very high and countless businesses have shut down. I drove to the post office today and was awestruck by the number of villas and old homes for sale on a rural road with breathtaking views of San Gimignano and the countryside. Italy needs change, it needs a positive outlook on its future, something to look forward to, a charismatic leader who will lead us towards a healthier Italy. Long gone are the ‘Dolce Vita’ days. Italy is an old country. A Country for old people. And old people do not like change. Our youth leave Italy in search of opportunities elsewhere. The ones who stay have to settle for jobs with very little pay.
A lady who works for me asked me who she should vote for. I told her that I could not tell her for whom she should vote for. She should read what this referendum is all about and make her choices. She told me that everyone in her household was voting ‘no’. Why, I asked? Because their political party affiliation said to do so. Her daughter has been jobless for several years, and her son in law earns €900 per month. They have four children and must rely on her ageing parents for financial support. Shouldn’t they want to vote for a change?
Italians love to talk about politics and complain about it, but in the end, no one wants to change anything. I am going to liberally paraphrase what the brilliant Chilean author Luis Sepulveda said about Italians: They are the only people in the world who could live without a government.
What frightens me about Italians are the unkind words they have towards immigrants. What worries me is the fear so many have of immigrants and refugees, and fear makes people do strange things.
On a sweeter note, I made Castagnaccio and it turned out quite nice!
Castagnaccio is a fall sweet. I did not care for it as a child. My grandmother used to make a pitiful version of this cake. It is a very ‘poor’ dessert as in it has very few ingredients: Chestnut flour, Pine Nuts, Raisins and Rosemary. I dreaded having to eat it. Italian grandmothers tend to force-feed their grandchildren in fear of an imminent famine. I am well prepared to endure one now!
It was not until I was in high school when I would have to help out at my father’s restaurant in the evenings that he had me try his version. No, I told him I did not like Castagnaccio.
I tried it because he, like my grandmother, was preparing me to fight a famine. Wow, it was delicious.
My father used to make a glorious Castagnaccio.
He told me his secret 20 years later. Cream. Don’t use water, use Cream. Full fat cream.
So what can I use that is not cream? I do not use soy products, and I have tried making rice milk, spelt milk, oat milk, but why? They are terrible. Only the Chinese could have been brilliant enough to invent a milk made with beans, and market it to the world and make a fortune out of it. But wheat milks? They are unreasonably expensive and have no nutritional benefits.
So instead of using cream, add oil. My grandmother and father used little oil. To substitute the lack of cream, I used more oil.
I used water and a little baking soda. The traditional recipe does not call for it, but I wanted a softer castagnaccio as to the traditional one.
- 500 gr Chestnut Flour
- 800 gr water
- 120 gr pine nuts
- 120 gr raisins
- 1/4 cup rum or sweet wine (optional)
- 50 gr chopped walnuts
- 1/2 Cup good olive oil or neutral oil
- 2 tbs brown sugar or maple syrup (add more if you like sweet desserts)
- 1 tsp Salt
- few sprigs of rosemary
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Heat oven at 400°
- in a large bowl measure the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.
- Weigh the Water and the olive oil then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well with a whisk.
- Let rest for thirty minutes. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts and soak the raisins in sweet wine.
- After thirty minutes add half of the raisins and half of the pine nuts to the batter. Reserve the rest to decorate your cake before placing in the oven.
- Line a large baking with wax paper. Pour your batter. Decorate with the remaining pine nuts and raisins. Freely add the rosemary. My father would add olive oil on top of the batter before placing it in the oven.
- Cook for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. All ovens are different!
- Feel free to use other nuts or dried fruits!