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Larder inessentials What’s lurking at the back of my fridge and cupboards

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store-cupboardThe heat here in Rome has been something the past couple of weeks. Not up to 2003 of blessed memory, but hot nevertheless. The last thing I needed was for the fridge to start playing up, but it did, making horrible noises. Ignoring the disaster foretold, I defrosted the darn thing, which not only solved the problem (temporarily) but also provided inspiration for this episode of Eat This Podcast. At the back of the fridge I found things I had completely forgotten. That prompted me to dig around in the back of the store cupboard too, where there were lots of other things of which I was vaguely aware, but not aware enough actually to have used them. All of which prompted a musing on store-cupboard essentials, gifts from well-meaning friends, and the whole neophilia-neophobia tension. I hope I didn’t ramble on for too long.

Some the things that did not make it into my rambles:

  • The whole business of gleaning that gave rise to grano arso I find fascinating. Gleaners were surely the first dumpster divers. The practice is enshrined in the Old Testament and I like the idea that richer landowners sometimes deliberately left fruit behind in their vineyards and orchards and grain in their fields that the poor might gain. I am not competent to say anything more about Ruth than that I find her’s a very moving story.
  • The other story behind grano arso is that it was not the stubble-cleansing fires that burnt the gleaned wheat grains but rather the heat from steam-powered threshing machines. Probably both. I don’t know whether any Pugliese who remembers the old stuff would agree that smoked or oven-burnt flour is in any way a substitute, but I like it.
  • Here’s a recent entry point to my adventures with grano arso.
  • I do feel rather ashamed about the garum thing. After my podcast Lauren Stacy Berdy was so kind to send me a bottle of her American garum and I still haven’t tried it. But I will, and soon, I promise. And perhaps I’ll report back here.

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