Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy Day of La Befana

jan. 6, 2009
Ciao a tutti from Nascondiglio di Bacco on the day of the Befana. This is a day which is celebrated in Italy when stockings are hung by the chimney with care and the little girls and boys get candy and goodies or a lump of coal (or both)-sound familiar?
The legend goes back centuries; supposedly the 3 wise men asked directions at the house of a little old lady who invited them in for a rest. They asked her to join them on their journey to find the Christ child, but she excused herself saying she had too much housework. A short time later, she rued that decision and took out after the 3 wise men and not finding them, gave treats to all the little ones she met along the way, thinking they might be Jesus. Another possibility: this celebration is the continuance of a pagan festival wherein new year's gifts were given in honor of Ianus and Strenia that was incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas. Whichever you decide, the day can be as exciting as Christmas for the children, is a national festival marking the end of the Christmas season (time to put away the decorations) and on a more important note is the day of the national lottery which pays out 5 million euros to the winner and nearly 100 consolation prizes. In Ascoli, it marks the beginning of the "after Befana" sales at the stores as well. (They don't call them that-I just made that up)
I have had a couple of exciting days alone here at the bed and breakfast. Yesterday, while cleaning the rooms, I took the dirty linens to the outdoor shack and found an inch of water coating the floor. Seems one learns little lessons about one's abode all the time. If you turn the boiler on when you are full and needing the extra radiator heat and then everyone leaves and you turn the heat off in each room as your daddy told you, the pressure builds up in the boiler with nowhere to go and so exits the safety valve into the shack. Needless to say, the shack is spotless right now after a bit of early spring cleaning. Yesterday, I went on a search for a new dishwasher, having tired of washing dishes for 10 guests by hand, took Bacco for a swim at the beach and used the 1st sunny day in a month to start pruning the olive trees which remain disheveled. I stood on a small branch about 2 meters up which broke and the earth's mass being greater than mine attracted me like a magnet to iron. Luckily, my right hand had hold of another branch, so I swung like a monkey a bit and landed mercifully softly on the soggy ground. Greeted promptly with licks from Bacco I remounted said olive tree to finish the pruning.
Last night, Raffaele and 2 friends devoured a bit of american chili I had made and wanted the recipe, so here goes: 1 lb of hamburger, 1 lb of spicy sausage, cooked together and drained. Saute a medium chopped red onion, hot peppers to your tolerance for piccante (spicyness), 2 cloves of chopped up garlic and 10-15 sliced cherry tomatoes in olive oil and add them to 2 cups of beef broth with a little beer or wine added if you wish. Cheat a bit and add two 15 oz cans each of white beans and dark beans and the meat and simmer for awhile. Add salt and pepper as desired. That made enough for 4 people, but I imagine we were hungry, so you could make this recipe for 6 normal appetites. You can change this to white chili by substituting chicken and a white sausage and chicken broth above.
Today, off to Raffaele's parents and family for a Befana luncheon that can't be beat and a grand hope that at day's end I will be 5,000,000 euros richer!
Happy Befana to all. The pictures are of my Befana gift, painted in watercolor by Sabrina Gianno, of Nascondiglio, the vineyard and Bacco, today's dawn with ice in the cement pond after our 1st 2 days of sub freezing temperatures and Bacco in the flesh.
Thanks to Wikipedia for info on La Befana as well as Italiansrus.com and for an image of the Befana riding into the town of Barga, copy and paste this link - http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.barganews.com/doggybag/befana.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.barganews.com/doggybag/2005/01/befana-rides-into-barga-on-her-donkey.html&usg=__mYHhHJGEmjZQzjZa_q4d5mC9Y7s=&h=598&w=400&sz=91&hl=en&start=7&um=1&tbnid=S29w7n5DDnpKuM:&tbnh=135&tbnw=90&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbefana%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den-us%26sa%3DX
Wow, that's a big link! or just google La Befana and check out images.

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