Tag Archives: veneto

Sweet Potato Pinza for All Saints

This sweet potato pinza is a typical Venetian cake consumed in occasion of Ognissanti, on November 1st. All Saints (Ognissanti) and the All Dead Souls (Giorno dei Morti) are still relatively hearth-felt festivities in the Italian tradition, and both are celebrated with rituals as much as traditional foods.

Both festivities seem to be of Celtic origin. For Celts, the new year began on November 1st, in correspondence with the end of the farming cycle. Divinities were called on earth to bless the new farming cycle and so, on the night between October 31st and November 1st, spirits would walk the earth, sharing with the living in this special time of the year.

When Christianity took over, the festivity of Samahain (from which Halloween originated) was turned into the Christian celebrations of All Saints and of All Dead Souls, while still maintaining the semblance of the original pagan cult.

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Grape Must Pudding (Sugoli)

September is an exciting time of the year in Italy. The season is turning, the heat is less sweltering, and everywhere you’ll find festivals celebrating all sorts of products. Among these, the festivals of the vendemmia (grape harvest) are the most famous, widespread and fun.

Veneto has a time-honoured winemaking tradition that involves pretty much the entire region. However, in the area where I grew up, which hasn’t a particular vocation for wine, lesser varieties were planted and then turned into simple wines for everyday consumption.

In the past, the grape harvest used to employ large parts of the peasant workforce. Seasonal workers would break their back for little money, but they would at least be able to take home some bunches of grapes, perhaps the damaged ones, to eat and cook. From these grapes, thrifty countryside women (including those in my family) would then pull out a sweet pudding called sugoli – a thick, sugar laden sweet treat that was perfect to boost the energy levels of the vendemmiatori. They were what one would call a poor man’s feast.

The name sùgoli comes from the word sugo (juice). It is, in its essence, nothing more than a grape juice pudding. The recipe is as easy as it sounds: just grapes, flour and, perhaps, some sugar. The only thing you’ll need is a fine masher or, better still, a food mill. The rest will come along in no time.

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