My grandmother Marcella was born in the ’20s in the countryside of Colle Val d’Elsa, not far from Siena. She never moved, and she is still living in the same house where she was born. The same can be said for my father, who moved into the old stables when he married my mum. The same can be said for me, as I am now living in the house where both my grandmother and my father were born.
When my grandmother was young, three generations used to live together: there was her grandfather Tommaso – such a modern and up-to-date man, the first one who built an inner bathroom in the house in the whole village -, then Pietro, Tommaso’s son and grandma’s father, then grandma Marcella, the only child, and a girl, indeed!
My great-grandfather Piero had two brothers, Dante and Giuseppe, known as Bebbe. I’ve met Uncle Beppe when I was a child: he lived for more than 90 years with perfect health and clearness of mind, he drove his own car and at that time he lived alone in Colle Val d’Elsa. The secret of his long and great life? A teaspoon of mashed garlic stirred into his caffellatte each and every morning!
Uncle Beppe had married Casilde. They didn’t have children, so they elected my grandmother Marcella as their favourite niece. They used to drive to grandma’s house in the countryside and take her to their home. They lived in town, it was such an excitement for her! Then, my great-grandfather Piero would go to town to bring his daughter back home in the countryside… they kept on moving forth and back until grandma Marcella married my grandfather Biagio.
Grandma has always loved living in Colle Val d’Elsa: lots of people to talk with, strolls along the main road, friends, the oratory.. and, most of all, the cinema! Uncle Beppe was the cinema keeper of the Dei Varii Theatre. He would sit at the ticket office with his little dog, all spruced up for the occasion.
Boiled beef fricassee
The main course at Aunt Casilde’s house was always lesso in fricassea, boiled beef fricassee.
It used to be a Sunday dish, not an everyday recipe! The boiled beef was the result of the clear soup they used to have for lunch with some pasta. If you had leftover beef, you could cook the meat with tomato sauce and potatoes or you could make a filling dish with eggs. Grandma used to love the latter.
This is another recipe – along with the francesina, the Florentine leftover beef cooked with onions, and meatballs, that would give a second life to boiled beef: so juicy and tender when it is just removed from the pot of steaming broth, so stringy and hard once cooled down.
Boiled beef fricassee
- 400 g of leftover boiled beef
- 50 g of flour
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- A dash of milk or cream
- 4 eggs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet with a garlic clove. In the meantime, slice the leftover boiled beef into strips and dust them with flour.
- When the olive oil is hot, add the meat into the pan and brown on both sides until golden.
- Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt and black pepper and a dash of milk - when I want to indulge myself I use fresh cream. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and stir until you get a texture similar to scrambled eggs.
- Serve warm, with a slice of fresh Tuscan bread.