Umbria’s Wild Boar Hunters
“Quando piove e tira vento, il cacciatore perde tempo” (“when it rains and the wind blows, the hunter wastes his time”) says the old saying, thus verifying why Ristorante/Bar Da Giovannino near our house was full of wild boar-hunters on a recent Saturday. Needle-like rain bucketed down as hunters in camouflage suits and the required fluorescent vests sat in the bar, sharing “missed hits” stories of past cinghiale hunts over espresso or panini di prosciutto with vino rosso – or shots of grappa (“takes the chill out of the bones”, elderly Siverio affirmed). All headed out for wild boar as soon as the rain let up. Two caposquadra (“team leaders”), Sergio and Italo, left with kilos of sliced prosciutti and paper bags of sliced bread for their squadra - about 30 of the 50 men would hunt that day – all hunters equipped with radios in their pockets (required by law) so that each knows the location of all. The number of dogs they’ll take varies: a team of about thirty will use twenty dogs or more.
Sergio and Italo applied to the Regione dell’Umbria to be caposquadre, taking the required 3-day course on hunting laws, environmental awareness and rigid safety measures.
Before each hunt, la squadra meets at Giovannino’s and the caposquadra must fill out a form stating point of departure, time of return and listing all men hunting that day (each must sign his name on the list).
If there is an accident – and mamma mia, local newspapers unfortunately report too frequently accidental deaths due to a squadra member mistaking a fellow hunter’s movements for a cinghiale - the responsibility lies on the caposquadra until an investigation proves otherwise.
Every hunter on la squadra chooses a role: i tracciatori (“tracers”, literally) head out first to scout the whereabouts of the cinghiale, following their “traces”. I postaioli (those staying still in one place or “posto”) soon take their places and one of them is another caposquadra, Americo, who hunts with his masterpiece of a gun (he carved the stock with scenes of wild boar hunts on one side, portraits of his dogs on the other). Giancarlo, friend Peppa’s son, hunts as un canettiere (on the move, with the dogs, “cani”).
If la squadra brings in a boar, what a feast afterwards: the hunters butcher the boar together, dividing up the meat.
You might try cinghiale at an Italian restaurant but no one cooks it like the wife – or mother – of a wild boar hunter.
Peppa makes pasta with sugo al cinghiale or cinghiale stew with torta (Umbrian flatbread) on the side. So does Americo’s wife Olga.
Olga’s is probably the best cinghiale I’ve ever tasted: maybe it’s the juniper berries?