A San Francisco “San Valentino” Cooking Feast (Feb. 14, 2014)
A festive Valentine’s Day table greeted all cooking guests entering Rich and Cathy’s San Francisco home on February 14th. But during our cooking class introduction – while I talked about Umbria, Umbrian rural life and rural cuisine – I neglected to mention Umbria’s tie to Valentine’s Day! San Valentino, born in Terni (Umbria) in the late 2nd C AD, was named bishop and legend says he was the first to marry a young Christian woman to a Roman soldier, pagan. Another story says he gave a rose to a quarreling young couple, praying to the Lord to care for them. Countless other stories associate him with the cult of loving, forgiveness.
Though i overlooked San Valentino at this Valentine cooking class, I did share lore on Umbrian rural cuisine. What makes the cooking “Umbrian rural”? The ingredients, the time it takes to cook (very little cooking time for each dish).
The foods will be those grown on the land: each farm family has their own olive oil, wine and vinegar and in their garden, all the ingredients we used, from the vegetables to the herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley) and will raise fowl.
Ah, yes, when adding the olive oil, it’s also time for “un pugno di sale”, i.e., “little fistful of salt.” Needed for about every dish serving 8 to 10 persons. Added to our peperonata dish, pasta sauce, mushroom dish, salad, too.
All our cooks mastered “un pugno.”
And everyone learned a final bit of rural lore as we sat down for our feast: farm families have one plate per person. But Italians do not wish to mix flavors, preferring to fully savor each one, slowly, course-by-course, no flavors interacting. How to do that without changing plates?
Simple: “fare la scarpetta.” “Make the little shoe (slipper)”, i.e., clean the plate after each course with a small slice of bread. Years ago, the bread was then eaten: there was never enough food. At our cooking classes, the scarpetta is usually set aside, for cleaning the plate for the next course, but not to eat at the end. No one leaves the table hungry!
Mille grazie to Don and Michele for pulling this all together to Rich and Cathy for opening home and hearts to our cooking team…and to all who joined in the cooking …and feasting!
“Thank you, Annie, how special our evening was!” Randy and Marlene
“Great San Francisco evening and dinner and thanks so much for a spontaneous evening. We look forward to seeing you in Umbria and touring together.” Creighton, Patricia