Christmas has already gone, it seems like it has been ages ago (is it the same for you? I feel like I’ve been working for months, already). If I look back I can see a mosaic made of images and lights: Christmas boxes, gift-wrapped and dolled up, trees and butcher’s broom, mistletoe, Christmas sweets, snowflakes and Santa Claus. This is my Christmas imagery since I was a child, since I used to be mesmerized by Coca Cola advertisings.
Recently, I was in a memories mood, so I asked Grandma how was her Christmas time, and I discovered the simplicity and the value of people able to appreciate little happy moments. She told me that children used to receive gifts just for the Epiphany (la Befana, 6th of January), and it was all about sweets, toffees and oranges. I can barely figure out the surprise to find, in a cold and foggy winter morning, an explosion of colour and smell, an orange rich and flavourful, something to tickle your eyes and your heart.
They didn’t use to trim the tree: they only made the Christmas crib, they went to the Mass on Christmas morning and they used to eat capon braised in tomato for lunch, with cardoons as side dishes. This used to be my grand grand father favourite dish!
The first trimmed Christmas tree my Grandma has ever seen was during the Second World War, when there were relatives, uncles and aunts in the country house to escape the war. One of the sister of Aunt Antonietta was a modern and creative woman, who trimmed a tree and made a lot of small gifts for everyone. My grandma received an embroidered handkerchief, she can still remember it!
Although they started to trim the tree, the main dish was capon braised in tomato, as usual!
Each family bred and fed their own capons. When I asked Grandma how did they make capons, she told me that there was an old woman who passed from house to house, at the end of the summer, to make them capons… and she didn’t add any further details! Such an educate and well-mannered woman!
Capon braised in tomato
- 1 capon, cut into medium pieces
- 1 carrot
- 1 red onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- 500 ml of tomato sauce
- 1 glass of red wine
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse the capon under running water and chop it into medium pieces, then put it in a pan without anything else (no oil, no butter, no grease) and let it cook for 10 minutes: it will loose liquid and fat, and it will be a bit lighter (not so much, eh eh) . This is a modern procedure, it wasn't used in the past, they weren't so maniac about light food!
- In the meanwhile, chop finely carrot, celery and onion, cover the bottom of a pan with extra virgin olive oil and saute chopped vegetables. After a few minutes add capon, season with salt and pepper and brown it on every side, stirring it with a wooden spoon. Now pour in a glass of red wine and make it reduce, then add tomato sauce. Let it simmer for about one hour, adding some tablespoons of water, if necessary. After this time, it's ready!
- Eat the capon hot, with a slice (or more) of Tuscan bread and a good dollop of cardoon flan.. but this is another story!