My grandfather was a landowner, he cultivated some of his land for vegetables and fruit and some as vineyard.
He exported part of his wine production to France to blend with French wines; he sold the rest locally and kept some for his own consumption.
There was a trick to his wine drinking, an ancient rituals that belonged to every seasoned man in Puglia before drinking a red wine.
I am not really sure who invented it, even though I call it my grandfather’s wine trick.
There were a few steps to follow for the trick to work well. First there was a selection of a perfect fennell stalk. The men blew a few times into the hole of the stalk to make sure there was enough suction through the hole.
After that, with a knife, they filed down sharp edges of the fennell stalk to make it into a perfect straw device.
When everything was to their satisfaction, they set under the portico, at the rustic table with the clay jug of red wine always on the floor by their feet, ready to enjoy the hot Summer breeze and the tasty meal their women had prepared.
This ritual is still found in Puglia, where some wines are so strong they can be cut with a scissor. Putting a fennell stalk to soak in the wine jug will change the flavor of the wine, but if we just want to lighten the flavor of the wine and make it slightly sweet, we put a fennell stalk in the wine glass and drink out of the stalk as if it was a straw. The taste of the wine passing through the fennell stalk is so incredibly different and refreshing!
Of course, this practice is good for a house wine, or for a not very expensive wine, please don’t do this to a $500.00 wine.
Fennell belong in the family of carrot, coriander, dill, parsley and celery, all falling under the Umbelliferous plants, which are those plants with a hallow stems and cluster of flowers coming out of the same stalk. Fennell bulb is a good source of water, good to eat while playing any sports under the sun. Excellent source of vitamin C as antioxidant and fiber to helps reduce high cholesterol and toxins from the colon. It also contains potassium, a precious mineral that helps lower high blood pressure.
As a versatile vegetable it is found in cooking of most countries in the Mediterranean basin mixed in salads or cooked with lamb or mussels. Fennell baked or grilled with cheese becomes a super pasta dishes or a delicious sandwich.
The green leaves are edible; they are very good with eggs, or egg frittata. However you like to cook a fennell, it will be a surprisingly good dish.
Fennell have been around since ancient Greece and Rome, revered for its medicinal and culinary properties. Greek mythology holds interesting beliefs and stories. The Gods at the Olympus brought knowledge to people in a fennell stalk. Good, I know that’s a myth, but perhaps all the healthy properties of the fennell have an impact on the health of the brain in retaining knowledge.
In the hot Pugliese Summers every trick to cool the bodies down is a good trick! It always fascinated me to watch men going through the ritual of finding a good fennell stalk.
Now, the ritual continues with me. The guests at my table are always surprised and puzzled on why I do that, but they do enjoy the ritual and enjoy listening to the stories of my traditions, as far as liking the fennell, people who don’t come from Mediterranean basin have difficult time accepting its flavor. Ciao,
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking.
She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
She is the author of two published Italian regional cuisine books available here in this site on the Books page and in various locations: