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Douglas Gayeton
My shoes are caked with mud: a Tuscan photo diary

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Part 3: Una Scampagnata
Monday, Apr 12, 2004 (12:30 PM)

If I happen to be in America at Thanksgiving, I always find my way to the Sierra foothill town of Folsom, California, where my sister-in-law puts her yearly Italian spin on the traditional turkey fete.

It was at her table that I ate cardone for the first time, an unusual vegetable whose celery-like stalk is pre-soaked in salt water (to temper its bitter aftertaste), boiled, dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs, then fried. Cardone's flavor? Earthy, with thick fibers (it's related to the artichoke). Until recently it was absolutely impossible to buy in American supermarkets. This I know, because after Thanksgiving one year I returned to LA and tried to duplicate the dish. After finding no cardone I called Kim and asked her advice. It turned out that her cardone comes from a vacant lot in Sacramento she visits each fall with her Italian grandmother. It grows there in abundance, along with wild fennel and an assortment of other vegetables that always make their way to her dinner table.

All these years I've been eating vegetables from a vacant lot in Sacramento? The idea somehow struck me as wildly transgressive until I returned to Italy and began noticing village women on the sides of the road each spring, baskets in their hands, their necks craning the horizon in search of wild salad...

Launches in a new window (275 K).

EPILOGUE: Hunting for wild salad is truly a slow food adventure. When we finished Daria gave me a basketful of vegetables to take home. I spent an hour patiently scrubbing and soaking everything then sat down to a magnificent "pasta al balloto" and a big salad.

I was also exhausted.

Incidentally, these images were taken on the grounds of Fattoria di Celle, which houses one of the most impressive outdoor sculpture collections in Europe. It is open only by appointment.

Further:

•  More on hunting for "wild salad" from "Lost in Italy"

•  Everything you ever wanted to know about cardone

•  About Fattoria di Celle

•  A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright. Features a detailed historical look at the evolution of peasant food in Italy, with many recipes calling for specific vegetables and salads mainly found in the wild.

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«  Part 2: La Giuseppina Part 4: Vino Biodinamico » 
Past Entries
04/05 Part 1: Un Vero Macello
04/08 Part 2: La Giuseppina
04/12 Part 3: Una Scampagnata
04/20 Part 4: Vino Biodinamico
06/01 Part 5: Me Viene Latte Alle Ginocchia