Brunella (in the middle) in a picture taken by blogger Davide Arnesano at the end of a dinner at our winery, last year. To her left, Monica, the wife of our vice president Paolo Gobbi

With the holidays coming up, we’ve thought of asking our talented Brunella, who warms us with her typical dishes, especially at harvest time, when we have lunch all together, or on special occasions, to tell us about Christmas in Maremma and festive traditions. And right while we’re chatting, Brunella is at work in the Vignaioli’s kitchen, rolling out the schiacciata (a local focaccia) for a school visiting us, using a (label-less) bottle as a rolling pin. «My mother would call it the Eve of the seven dinner», starts  Brunella, «because we would prepare seven course». It was a «light» dinner, «di magro», thus without meat, so even though there was plenty of food, the ingredients were simple. Brunella stops a few moments to remember, then she gets back to work and continues: «We would start with crostini (toasted bread) with cauliflower, then there was  pasta and chickpeas, and then tagliatelle with walnuts, sugar and cinnamon». The latter is a Christmas dish that has very ancient origins, in fact they date back to the Etruscans and Romans – after all, it is no surprise since these two people had an essential role for  Maremma. This should refer to the ancient pagan feast of Saturn which was celebrated from December 17th till December 23rd, and then, with the arrival of Christianity, it was turned into something Christian. «Then there was salted codfish with chickpeas, then…» Brunella stops again. «Then I don’t remember… You know, today in fact we don’t prepare all these courses together, in fact», she confesses. This was Christmas Eve, as Brunella’s mother would prepare it, something which she now continues with her family. Christmas lunch followed – and follows – all the criteria of a festive meal. After Christmas eve came abundance, with starters made with crostini and cured meat, broth made with hens or beef  – the real one! – with cappelletti, lasagne, casserole tins of pasta. «I can’t recall recipes you would only make on Christmas day. Then of course each family has its own traditions», says Brunella. As we chat, Leo – whom you can find in our shop – and Lamberto – who is in charge of the administration – also arrive in the kitchen and illustrate all the Christmas cakes, shared with the tradition of Maremma and Tuscany in general. There are Florentine cantucci, but also made with Morellino – of course! – and also cavallucci, made with candied fruit, hazelnuts and almonds, ricciarelli and panforte, and also a tart with ricottazuppa inglese and dates with mascarpone and walnuts. One gets hungry just by listening to them and their stories about Christmas in Maremma! «There were also melatelle, made with honey», adds Lamberto, in the end. A cake made for Befana (6th of January), typical of Buriano (here’s the recipe).  And mentioning the Epiphany, Leo finally recalls: «It was the Befana who would bring us presents. We would put the letter to Santa Claus between our dad’s first and second plate, and every year he would start the same funny scene: he would sit at the table and when he noticed his dishes were unstable he would wonder why, and then he would find the letter. Then on the day of the Befana we children would get up early», he says, «and look for the presents under the tree».|1565brunella-e-co

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