Anne's Blog

Wine in Rural Umbria: For Babies, Too

Date: October 2, 2020 - categories: - Leave your thoughts

For my next ZOOM  (October 10th) on the culture, folklore and artistic  traditions of wine from the Romans until today,  an interview with Peppa on wine’s use in rural cultures must be included.
Recently, Peppa enthusiastically shared with me rural wine lore over lunchtime pasta at her farmhouse.


When she was a child and her family were all mezzadri (sharecroppers), there was little cash in the house for  gentle soaps  (they made their soaps from pig lye) and creams for the care of infants and children.  “There were many diapers to wash when my three boys were small.  We made the diapers out of rags, strips of old cloth, old dishtowels.”  The rural mother  washed the soiled ones outdoors r at their wash basin during the spring and summer  – and in the winter, the women boiled them in hot water in the immense copper cauldron hanging in every farmhouse fireplace.


“When i changed my three little boys, I cleaned their little bottoms with our wine, warm wine.  I put it in my mouth like this and then warmed it,” Peppa told me before swishing the wine around in her mouth, cheeks puffed out to demonstrate for me.



“I laid il bambino on my lap on a clean cloth or rag and started washing from top to bottom, first  washing his neck, shoulders, chest, then  tummy and his little balls,  – and then his pistoletto (‘little pistol’).  Next,  I carefully turned him over and warmed more vino in my mouth for the washing of  his back, bottom, legs , and little feet. Wine warmed in the mouth is just the right temperature – not too hot, not too cold.”  Peppa carefully illustrated all the process of  baby wine-washing for me as she talked:



And not just her babies but baby chicks were cared for with wine:  weak baby chicks were strengthened by wine. Her nonna would swish a gulp of wine in her own mouth to warm it, then try to open the beak of the chick, spitting in the wine… per dare forza (“to give strength”), explained Peppa.
Some time ago, I took this photo of baby chicks Peppa was caring for, kept warm in a discarded cake box placed near the wood stove.



No, she did not spit wine into their little beaks.


Click here for more on the use of wine in rural cultures – and a recipe, too!


Click here to see my various video presentations on Italy, Italians, their culture and history.


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