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La Cucina Abruzzese

The Regione Abruzzo has a reputation of being something of a wild land. Not entirely undeserved; inland it is mostly rugged mountains and valleys, and until not too long ago the primary economic activity was shepherding. It was even more important in the past, when shepherds would transfer their flocks from winter pastures in the lowlands further south to summer pastures in the Abruzzesi mountains -- a twice-yearly migration of millions of animals over trails as wide as modern highways. This transfer quite obviously helped the shepherds keep their flocks alive (further south pastures dry out in the summer). It also served to cement ties between the Abruzzo region, which was the farthest-flung and most isolated province of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the remainder of the country.

Indeed, it's likely no accident that the transumanza, as the migration was called, began to decline following the unification of Italy. In 1864 a law was passed that recognized the rights of the farmers whose lands were crossed (one might expect that many began to keep the sheep out to prevent their destroying the fields, or to charge tolls), and in 1908 Parliament reduced the number of migration routes to four.

With the decline of the transumanza the Abruzzo region became more isolated than it had been previously, an isolation that has only been broken since the War, in part though the construction of highways, and in part through the development of tourism -- summer mountaineering and winter skiing inland, and swimming, sunning and boating along the Adriatic coast, which is quite beautiful. People also come to enjoy the foods -- lamb and mutton, pecorino and goat's milk cheese, olive oil, wines, saffron (which has always been grown for use in medicines and dyes, but is now being used in the kitchens too), and hot peppers, locally known by a variety of names including diavolicchio (the little devil). Farro, the grain that fed the Roman legions, is also making a comeback. The cuisine? Like most peasant cuisines it's simple, but quite wholesome, especially in more modern interpretations that allow the use of some meat or oil (back in the peasant days there would have been little of either, nor much cheese for those who weren't well off). After lamb and mutton, pork was the meat of choice inland, with many people raising animals in a semi-wild state, allowing them to forage what they could find in the forests and butchering them in the fall. Along the coast, as one might expect, fish also plays a major part in the diet.

Enough talk! Food!

FINALLY, A FEW THINGS OFF THE NET:

FOOD

Mangia Mangia in the Mountains
Corby Cummer's recollections of visiting the Abruzzo region, and several recipes too. As always well written & fun.

Panarda:
Rosemary Torigian's recollections of a wonderful feast on a wild and stormy night in Abruzzo.

TRAVEL

Abruzzo 2000
A neat site for expatriate Abruzzesi throughout the world, with lots of information on what's going on in the old country, tourist info, slide shows, genealogy, and much more.

Castelli Abruzzesi
There's lots to see!

Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo
One of Italy's most savage parks, with information on getting there and accommodations too.

Le Grotte Stiffe
Discover an underground river, complete with falls and cataracts, in Abruzzo.

Pescara & Chieti
For when you've had enough of exploring nature in Abruzzo. Includes hotel info too.

Il Parco Nazionale della Maiella
Another spectacular national park, with lodging suggestions and lots of other advice.

Got more sites / recipes to suggest? Let me know!

Buon Appetito!
Kyle Phillips

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