A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of joining my grandfather in the annual production of our 'Capricola.' Pontelandolfo slang for 'Capicola' or 'Capocollo' depending on where your're from. However you want to say it, it is basically the muscle running from the neck to the mid-rib section, trimmed, cured and sliced for antipasto or a sandwich if you have the right bread. It was my first time curing this type of meat from start to finish. It was interesting, but what really made me start to think was not the big slabs of pork covered in homemade red pepper and kosher salt.
I came to think, if I could be half the person that one of my grandparents is, I'd be very happy with the way my life is going. It's not because of their skill in a certain trade, the garden, around the house, or even in the kitchen. It lies in their ability to have the I-can-do-it-better-myself style of thinking. They've stuck true to themselves and the values they were brought up with. They haven't conformed to this laid-back-let-someone-else-take-care-of-it society. It's quite incredible, sometimes too much for words... It's more of a thing you become aware of over time.
Check em out:
All four of these individuals are immigrants from Pontelandolfo, Italy, a small paesino, or village, outside of Benevento. A very tranquil place in the south of Italy (Campania Region) infested with olive trees, pastures, and quite the fertile ground.
Like many immigrants in their time, they arrived with nothing but a few hopes and maybe a suitcase filled for two people. Now, I won't go into dates, locations, or specific events because this isn't that type of blog post.
Lately I have been reflecting on the lives they've had and how it's sculpted the people they have become. I pin myself as a hard worker, but nothing like these four individuals. I can honestly say that we all put the same amount of hours of work per week. Guided it is at their own pace, in their own garden, lunch provided precisely at noon, then followed by a nap. However, there is quite the age gap between them and I, in case you haven't already guessed that.
Growing up, living off their land was the only way to survive. There was no money to order take out or go out to eat when they didn't feel like cooking. There was nothing besides what they were able to grow and the livestock they raised to maybe spice up their holiday meals a bit with.
What fascinates me the most is that they are still able to provide for themselves (for the most part) throughout the entire year. It's definitely a bit different now with the harsh winters of New Englandfor them. However, summer is a magical place on Concord Dr. (Both sets of grandparents and my parents live on the same road- like a little Focareta/Orsini Estate of Watertown, CT) They definitely have done a great job adapting to the change in climate from their hometown to here.
The thought of buying produce in the summer is blasphemy to us. Farmers market? Fuck, who needs that when I can step into the backyard and pull a tomato off the vine, take a bite, throw a bit of salt on the other half while staring at the very vine it came off of. Then I get to wash it down with a cold Birra Italia and a green plum right off the tree.
I believe we live in a world now which 'instant' has become the new fad. Organic and Natural are made up terms in my eyes. Organic is just a normal piece of food correct? Just because large companies started pumping food with hormones doesn't mean that we should label a normal piece of fruit/vegetable as special.
I am no expert in sustainability of our state of food. I am definitely no Dan Barber, but I can assure you that my grandparents taught me a good amount of what it means to be self-sufficient. Now- it doesn't mean I am practicing it day to day- I still find myself going to dinner a good amount. (It's something I'm working on okay?)
However, I know when that my life settles, I will put forth every effort to recreate the lifestyle they lived. I definitely will put a little of my own twist on it for sure. Not for nothing I'm one for being served from time to time- I mean who doesn't enjoy it??
Check out some photos from the grounds: