Anne's Blog

“The Bean-Eaters” of Cave di Foligno

Date: October 24, 2014 - categories: , - 2 Comments

Carracci’s painting, “The Bean-Eaters” (1590) lives on in a modern version at the Sagra del Fagiolo in the tiny village of Cave di Foligno (pronounced “ka-vay”) along the Topino River near the city of Foligno. At this “bean celebration,” locals unite for ten days to celebrate two fagioli varieties grown just in the area along the Topino: il verdino di Cave and il giallo di Cave. After putting in your food order with volunteers at the two cash registers (one eating a pizza stuffed with turnip greens, a favorite festival dish, the night we were there), you pass a volunteer selling packets of the bean varieties as you head into the food tent. Groups of families and friends feast at the tables as young volunteers carry out trays from the kitchen (where other volunteers are cooking up the tasty dishes, many highlighted with local beans).

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Volunteers at the cash register snack on the sagra goodness

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Two kinds of beans grown along the riverbanks near Cave

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Bean vendor near the sagra entrance

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“Bean-eaters” of all ages enjoy the goodness

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Francesca and Alessandro, two happy “bean-eaters”

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“Bean-eaters” enjoy the goodness at the Cave sagra

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Young Gianmarco serves up tasty antipasti

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Gianmarco serves up pasta e fagioli

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“Try our wine!”

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A sagra celebrating beans in Cave di Foligno

Not all those at the sagra are “bean-eaters” as other foods entice as well: agnello scottadito (“grilled lamb to scorch your fingers”) won over the man sitting next to me while his wife chose the pizza stuffed with turnip greens. Pino chose the snails (he always will if on the menu) and ordered a plain bruschetta for antipasto. I wanted to stay with the fagioli theme: I chose the bruschetta topped with a tasty paste of turnip greens and the beans. Who could have imagined? (Italy is wondrous for this: the variety of foods, changing even village-to-village). I asked a woman at our table, Rita – who lives in nearby Foligno- if she’d ever heard of such a pate’? “Mai,” she replied with a smile. Rita’s soup, vellutata vittoria (“Vittoria’s velvet” and I can only guess, that a Signora Vittoria was one of the cooks), was a creamy bean soup.

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Agnello Scottadito

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Signora Rita from Foligno enjoys the vellutata Vittoria

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Pizza filled with steamed turnip greens

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Pino always chooses snails

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Bruschetta with turnip green/bean pate’

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The sagra menu

For the main course, I ordered the star dish of this sagra, fagioli alla cainara or “beans the Cave way” (those who live in Cave are called “Cainaresi”), a rich soup made with the local beans, ground veal, tomatoes and herbs. For a vegetable? Turnip greens in garlic and olive oil – with beans, logicamente! We were too full for dessert but when someone at our table was served the crostata ai fagioli (bean torte!), I knew I couldn’t leave this sagra without the full experience. Our server, Pamela, promised to bring a “small slice” from the kitchen…..just to try. As she served us the dessert, I asked her how she ended up here waiting at table. She replied with a grin, “I went from the table to the kitchen: I used to come here just to eat the wonderful food and then I decided I wanted to help out.” I wonder if we’ll see Pamela in Cave di Foligno again next October? One thing is certain: we’ll be returning to this sagra, joining again the other “ bean-eaters.”

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The sagra highlight: fagioli alla cainara

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Pamela serves up the fagioli alla cainara

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Volunteer Leonardo serves the bean soup, la vellutata and fagioli alla cainara

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Bean torte is the scrumptious dessert at the Sagra del Fagiolo

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Cave di Foligno is known for two bean varieties

Read about a sagra supporting sports near Assisi

Read more about the sagras

Read about Pino making torta on our wood stove

Read about a Tuscan fund-raising sagra

Read about a spicy Rieti food festival

Read more on sagra pleasures

Read about a sagra near Perugia starring peperoncino

2 Comments

  • Jan Johnson says:

    Heaven! Just love all fagioli dishes (and turnip greens). So simple and so nutritious. Thanks Annie. Here’s to next year’s celebration!

  • Stephanie Webb says:

    I absolutely love the Italian way of celebrating even the lowly bean! My mouth was watering between your pics & description of each menu item. I couldn’t think of a better food item to enjoy during chilly October days. Gianmarco looks to be enjoying himself, that beautiful smile! I would love to be under that tent next yr, reveling in the whole bean experience! Thanks, Annie!

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