In general, every month of the year has its own festivity. February is the most eagerly awaited month for adults and children for the start of Carnival, a period that is coloured by fun and frolics and seems to bring a glow of light after the long, dark winter.
Today, Carnival is a festivity linked to Catholic and Christian traditions. The term is believed to originate from the Latin ‘Carnem Levare‘, meaning ‘to remove the meat’. This meaning stems from the fact that as soon as the Carnival celebrations ended (the so-called ‘Shrove Tuesday‘), the period of Lent began, during which, according to the Catholic religion, meat is no longer to be eaten.
However, the ancient origins of this festivity probably go back even further, to the time when ancient Rome celebrated the Saturnalia (17 to 23 December) to protect the New Year’s harvest from evil spirits roaming the fields.
Carnival, regardless of the tradition to which one attached it, was a time of goliardia, celebration and hilarity. It was a circumstance in which social classes were abolished: slaves disguised themselves as masters, mocked them and flocked the streets of villages in disguise. Work was suspended, this was the time when ‘everything was permissible‘. Life became a parody, no one had power over the other, everyone was equal and free to celebrate together.
The Carnivals of Italy: from the battle of the oranges to the fake ox.
Photo by @Cuciniamoitaly
This goliardic festivity is celebrated differently around the world today. However, Carnival in Italy continues to be one of the best-known festivities abroad. Not just because this tradition probably has its earliest roots in our country, but because of the many different carnivals celebrated throughout the country.
The most famous and renowned is certainly that of Venice, which contends with the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro for the status of the most spectacular one in the world. Most of the Venetian masks concealed the less well-off, who took pleasure in mocking the patricians in this way. But alongside this many other characteristic and picturesque ones take place in many Italian cities. Cuciniamo Italy takes us back to some truly unique ones, like that of Cento, Mamoiada and Ivrea. In particular, the latter is famous for the ‘battle of the oranges’, a real fight down to the last slice between the orange pickers wearing leather helmets and the participants wearing red hats shaped like socks.
By contrast, the one in Offida (in the Marche region) is unique for its hunt for the ‘fake ox’. On Shrove Friday, a fake ox covered with a white cloth is driven around the streets of the town until it reaches the central square, where it is incited by a crowd of people until it drops dead and the procession then starts, accompanied by carnival songs.
Farinella and rigatoni, not only sweets at Carnival!
But Carnival is not just about parades of masks, floats and throwing confetti and sweets, it is also about food and wine traditions.
Every region and every city has its own culinary speciality for the occasion, like fritters, castagnole and crostoli. Although sweets are the real protagonists of this event, there are also characteristic ‘savoury’ recipes, like pizzas, stuffed bread rolls and focaccia.
In Putignano (in the province of Bari), as we can read in the article Cuciniamo Italy has published dedicated to the food and wine specialities of Carnival, the most represented personage during the event is the Farinella. This mask takes its name from a flour obtained by grinding toasted chickpeas and barley and it used to be the main meal of people working in the fields.
Farinella was mixed, then and now, with sauces, with fresh tomatoes, or was sprinkled on seasonal vegetables to add flavour to the dish and provide greater nutritional value. To this day this recipe remains a symbol of the true local culinary tradition in Putigliano.
An Italian recipe that definitely goes well with Carnival is baked rigatoni with seasonal vegetables. The diced and thinly-sliced vegetables seem, in fact, to lie on top of the rigatoni like a colourful dusting of confetti.
If you would like to enjoy a fun evening, follow the procedure created by Chef Walter Zanoni available on Cuciniamo Italy.
Happy Carnival everyone!