Between nature, history and territory: tradition meets science, Part-1

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Between nature, history and territory: tradition meets science, Part-1

Between nature, history and territory: tradition meets science and innovation is our new bi-weekly column, which deals with typical products, organic at zero km, and surrounding ecomony. Stefania Montori and Lucia De Carolis will accompany us on this journey that turns 360 days on a very fascinating world to explore.

Stefania Montori born in 1968, Graduated in Law, she deals with art and organizes international events since 2010, but since she was a child she has nurtured the curiosity for the value of quality natural raw materials. In her spare time, she loves to make Grandmother Giulia's old recipes at home, and the dough that she personally rolls out with her rolling pin, one of her specialties is the pizza that she makes in many ways.

Tenacious, stubborn, constant and passionate character, she analyzes the food in the main elements that make up the dish and her visual expression of her because she claims that you eat first with your eyes and then with your mouth.

She has been a journalist for about eight years, she writes for various art magazines, Abruzzo Az, Urbis et artis, About of art, News art. In 2016, she edited for the magazine Urbis et Artis, Art in the kitchen, a monthly column with the presentation of historical recipes revisited in an artistic way.
In May, at the Italian culture office in Amsterdam, she was sworn official for the gala dinner "The Umbrian Excellence" present as an expert in cooking food and presentation of the serving dish.
She collaborated with a gastronomic expert of ancient recipes in the realization of the "Caterina dei Medici a Corte di Francia" project for the historical re-enactment of the menus of the time.

With reference to the project "research of local products, physical and organoleptic characteristics of raw materials", she presents the 1st element chosen in sharing with Lucia de Carolis: Lentil. THE LENTIL Lentils are the seeds of plants belonging to the Fabaceae family (Leguminosae), Genus Lens, Specie culinaris; therefore, its binomial nomenclature is Lens culinaris Medik, which has been cultivated since ancient times.

Lentils are native to the temperate areas east of the Mediterranean Sea basin, the Caucasus and Asia Minor. Today, the country that produces the largest quantities is undoubtedly India (also a large consumer), followed by Canada and Turkey.

In the rest of Europe, lentils are very popular but the consumption is not even remotely comparable to that of the East. In Italy, the most famous variety of lentils is that of Castelluccio di Norcia (DOP). That, of lentils, is a herbaceous plant, annual, which reaches an average of 50 cm in height (depending on the variety).

It has straight twigs, not prostrate, with opposite and pinnate leaves; the flowers are white or blue and bloom between the spring and summer months. The whole fruit consists of the pod, inside which a couple of disc-shaped and rounded seeds are enclosed; the size and color of lentil seeds varies, depending on the variety.

We can find seeds of the variety of pale color (light green, blond, pink) to darker (dark green, brown, purple). The product is grown in spring and harvested during the summer period July - August. The seasonality of lentils is harvested purely in summer: just think of the spectacle of the Castelluccio plain, which in summer is colored with magical atmospheres and scenarios thanks to the flowering of lentils.

That of lentils is considered one of the oldest crops of man, who was approaching agriculture. Between history and legend, between symbols and superstitions, lentils have a lot to tell. And when we eat a plate as a good omen on New Year's Eve, we will know that this simple gesture has its roots in a fascinating and distant past.

Very ancient culture evidenced by archaeological findings relating to the cave of Franchthi in Greece show that it was eaten between 13,000 and 11,000 BC. It was one of the first crops for domestic use and its consumption is attested in the biblical episode of Esau, in Genesis .

We will discuss later. Lentils, tradition and culture in one dish. They are good, healthy and nutritious. And they can never be missing on the New Year's Eve dinner table. The legumes consumed on New Year's Eve are the protagonists of a long history and fascinating legends.

This small legume is the undisputed protagonist of the New Year's Eve balls, the night that acts as a bridge between the old year and the new year.According to tradition, lentils symbolize prosperity and money, as they have a shape that recalls that of coins.

For this reason, in Italy during the New Year's Eve dinner lentils are eaten (often as an accompaniment to zampone or cotechino and in Umbria with sausage), as a symbol of prosperity for the new year. In Jewish culture, lentils, along with eggs, are part of traditional mourning ceremonies because their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.

In Ethiopia, stewed lentils called kik or kik wot accompany focaccia injera, the national dish. Yellow-fleshed lentils are also used to make a non-spicy stew which is one of the first solid foods for weaning children. It is said that they bring luck and that those who eat them will enjoy a new year full of wealth and of prosperity.

This is why you never give up on a good plate of lentils. Not even after the hearty New Year's banquets based on succulent dishes. Therefore, we know that this ancient legume is very rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins.

We know it's low in fat, tasty and hearty. And we know it brings good luck. But do we also know why? No, not everyone knows the symbolic meaning of lentils and it is, moreover, a somewhat controversial meaning because, in history, it has not always assumed positive connotations.

On New Year's Eve you cannot give up a good plate of lentils because they are symbolically associated with earning. This custom has its roots in the distant past. In fact, in Roman times, at the beginning of the new year, it was customary to give a bag of lentils to hang on the belt.

The shape of the lentils also facilitates the association with coins. And the hope was that the contents of the bag could turn into earnings for the wearer. Furthermore, already in Roman times, lentils were considered a nutritious and substantial food capable of feeding and supporting those who could not afford to consume meat and expensive foods.

A poor food, therefore, but very precious, which ensured a good supply of food even in the most difficult periods. Yet the symbolic meaning of lentils is not only interpreted with positive meanings. In the Old Testament, in fact, mention is made of the legume in a key episode in the history of the Jewish people: an episode, however, that does not put the small legume in a good light.

It is said, in fact, that Esau, returning tired and hungry from a long hunting trip, asked his brother Jacob for a plate of the lentil soup he had prepared. The twin granted it to him, on condition, however, that Esau renounced, in favor of him, his inheritance and the right of birthright.

Esau, who did not give importance to certain privileges, accepted. And so it was that he gave up taking the lead of the Jewish people. All for a plate of lentils. Precisely for this reason, nowadays, we say "sell yourself for a plate of lentils"

That is, to grant the best of oneself for a paltry return that is not worth at all what it is received for. In the Jewish tradition, this episode, over time, has favored the association of the legume with the occasions of mourning, when something precious is lost.