it’s time! / come on! on the table, in the middle of summer, / the tomato, star on the earth, / recurrent and fertile, / displays its convolutions, / its canals, / its remarkable amplitude and abundance, / no pit, / no husk, /
no leaves or thorns, /
the tomato offers its gift of fiery color / and cool completeness.
(P. Neruda – Ode to Tomatoes)
The Tomatoes is the essential part of the Mediterranean diet and it is a star on the Italian table. Introduced in Italy after the Discovery of the Americas it has been treated as a precious gift. In Italian it’s called
“Pomodoro” which means “golden apple” because when it arrived form the Americas it had a bright golden color. Then the love, the passion and the warmth of the Mediterranean sun gave to it that beautiful red color.
Tomato day: the Italian tradition Down Under
Of course the first Italian immigrants coming to Australia in the past were carrying not only all their hopes and dreams but also the precious fruit: the Tomato.
From the seeds they start to grown the plants. And from the plant came the fruit. You know the process! In the past as now, in the middle of the summer they celebrate the ritual of the “giorno della salsa” (the day of the Tomato sauce).
If you never join this day you must ask to an Italian friend to show you this tradition. It is a great experience that shows you the real meaning of “social network”. Forget about facebook and twitter! In the old times the nonnas were able to create an event without any technology. They used something called “communication”, using real words, meeting each other.
During the Tomato Day, family, relatives and friends are all reunited in the backyard of the house. Like a perfect factory, everyone has a specific role.
First of all, we have to say that this process is a never ending cycle. When the day is finished, and the sauce is in the bottle, as soon as one of them is used the process start again. It starts saving the empty bottles for the next year.
The first day is the “Washing day”: every single bottle collected during the year has to be cleaned and sterilized.
The second day is the “Selection day”: a team of experts, Nonne, Mamme e Zie (Grandmothers, mothers and aunties) come into the backyard and start to select among the huge quantity of tomatoes for the perfect ones, the ones that will become sauce. They remove the ones that are too soft or too unripened or with bugs. But no worries, there is no waste in an Italian family. All the waste will be used for the food that during the day will give energy to the workers.
Le fimmine (the women) remove the stem from the fruit and remove the “eye” from it, then they store them in the baskets. The tomatoes are now ready to be washed and then put in a big pot to be cooked.
La Zia (the auntie) is preparing the coffee and pours it in the coffee cup. Lo Zio (the uncle) is adjusting the flavor of it with some grappa that Compare Filippo (a very close friend) made and brought on the day.
The first tomatoes cooked and drained are now going to another part of the backyard. They are going where the Nonno ( the Grandfather ) is waiting with the special tools to strain them. Remember, no one except the nonno is allowed to touch it. No one!
A plate with different salumi (cured meat), cheeses and bread start to go around. It is normal, work makes everyone hungry.
The strained sauce is now in a batch and it is ready to be bottled. And when the bottles are to be closed the man competition on who is the best begins!
The bottles have to be disposed in a steel bin and only an alpha male is able to do that. It is a delicate part, there is the risk that all the work could be ruined. The bottles are then covered with water and left in the bin until the water starts to boil and the lid is sealed.
Now who is hungry? Let’s cook something!
Tomato Festival: Italians Down Under Ep. #06
Last year we had the opportunity to be invited at the Melbourne Tomato Festival.
A key event of the ‘Melbournese Movement’ and it is committed to this preservation of food, authentic cooking, customs and traditions.
We also had the opportunity to meet the Guarnaccia Family and enjoy their “Tomato Day”
Whatch the Episode!
And see You there on the 21st of February!!