The Puglia Diaries

The thrills and spills of a British Council Language Assistant in Molfetta, Italy

No Fireworks, but Fritelle

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November is a great month in Molfetta. Up until Monday morning, the weather was still hot and I was out in short sleeves, bragging about it to everyone at home with their bonfires and cups of tea. I have since surrendered, bought myself a fluffy cardigan and come to the realisation that my body now registers anything below 15 degrees as cold. Next winter in Leeds, I will probably never leave the house.

November is special in Molfetta because of food, as usual. I love how closely people observe seasonal fruit and vegetables, and how little traditions are part of the Italian diet. On the 11th November, it was San Martino, which means that people from Molfetta eat a type of savoury pastry called frittelle. I’m not sure why exactly, that’s just the way things are. All the bakeries put up their signs, welcoming orders for these little frittelle, filled with tuna, tomato, ricotta, mozzarella and all the other good things in life.

I was lucky enough to get an ‘avant première’ of frittelle when I was invited along to a lunch with my host family’s group of friends. Not only did I get to eat them, I got to observe the whole process of making them, from the rolling out of the pastry to the deep fryer. Yes, ‘frittelle’ comes from the verb ‘friggere’ which means ‘to fry’. Italian lesson over. Here are a few pictures of the assembly line:

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You could assume that I helped prepare stuff but in fact I am just posing. I left the job to the experts.

Frittelle were certainly not a disappointment. They are fun because you don’t know what’s inside them until you take a bite and find whatever is inside. This could be problematic for fussy eaters but I love literally everything that ends up on my plate here. I am not exaggerating. At the lunch, I met new people and tried to explain my life story in the most succinct and grammatically correct way possible.

Since this post has degenerated into a kind of food rhapsody, I’d best mention the dessert that followed the frittelle that day: sospiri. Sospiri are little cakes, typical of Bisceglie, the town just north of Molfetta. The word means ‘sighs’, probably because they are so so so good that when you eat one you just sigh with joy and bliss and think ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten’. They are choux buns, with a custard filling and covered in icing, and come in a variety of flavours. I was sent home with a raspberry one. It doesn’t look much but believe me, they are taste sensations:

Photo on 2013-11-03 at 21.37

So November the 11th came with more frittelle. I ate a fair few and then lounged like a happy cat until it was time to go do some exercise to burn them off. After never setting foot in a gym before, I have started going twice a week, braving the foreign world of weight machines and communal dressing rooms in exchange for the totally guilt free enjoyment of Italian cuisine, impromptu ice creams and having the last biscuit. I feel healthier and slightly less weedy. I can eat all the cake I want, including these chocolate muffins that I made today. Compare and contrast to the “scones” that I showed you a few weeks ago. I have found the right flour/raising agent combo, and have improved.

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All in all, November is a good month in terms of food. I didn’t really miss toffee apples and jacket potatoes. As for exploring and other things, you can expect updates as soon as I get the second wave of class tests corrected. I’ve been fulfilling this slightly more tedious side of teaching with an attempt at fairness and patience. For the past few days, I have been up to my eyeballs in Wordsworth and Coleridge and if I see anyone put an article in front of Nature or write the word ‘infact’ again, there will be serious consquences. Be warned, kids.

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Author: Elly Cooke

Recent graduate of English Literature and Italian from the University of Leeds. Book lover and part-time Italian speaker.

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