February 18, 2012

Chiacchiere: What’s all the chatter about?

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Written by: mi.o
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Article provided by: Jenny Arena-Galati from Fables and Facaccia.

Carnevale, a time of celebration and indulgence, where masquerades and merriment t

ake precedence and when the expression “fare due chiacchiere” (loosely translated: “shoot the breeze”) takes on a whole new meaning.

Many holidays in Italy are usually accompanied by culinary tradition, and carnevale is no exception. During this mardi gras period in the peninsula, delightful sweet, crispy strips known as chiaccherie make their appearance in many pasticcerie and home bakeries.

Chiacchiere are fried treats that go by many names and shapes throughout the bel paese. Their moniker translates to chit chat, perfectly suited to the delicious crunch they make when you bite into them, almost sounding like chatter.

Their origin dates back 200 years to ancient Rome, where during the Liberalia end-of-winter celebrations, fritters (known as frictilia) were made. These sweets fried in lard were indulgences that were meant to be enjoyed as part of the festivities honoring the gods and collective rituals of pleasure seeking. With the advent of Catholicism, the pagan festival was transformed into what we now know as Carnevale. While this holiday is no longer dedicated to honoring the gods of fertility and wine, it is still all about excess. It is an opportunity to party before Lent when the rigors of 40 days of fasting and sacrifice begin. The definitive word for this period is decadence which is why many of the foods prepared during the Carnival season are sweets and especially fritters. The most famous of these being Chiaccherie.

They go by many an alias: frappe (tassels) in Rome, cenci – (rags) in Tuscany, bugie (lies) in Piedmont, sfrappe in Le Marche, sfrappole in Emilia, nastri (ribbons), lattughe (lettuce), guanti (gloves) and many others. Variations of these crispy delights can be found in other European countries as well as in North America where they are known as ribbon cookies or angel wings. In fact, in some countries, it is tradition for husbands to give these cookies to their wives on Friday the 13th to avoid bad luck, in addition to enjoying them on Fat Tuesday. But no matter their descriptor, their recipe remains fairly constant. Northern Italian versions tend to use butter and spirits like grappa for the dough, while in the south they use olive oil and sambuca. They take on many forms, squares, sheets, strips, diamonds, knots and twisted ribbon-like shapes. Using a sweet fried dough with the requisite dusting of powdered sugar, they are a sweet and simple indulgence, both delicious and addictive. What makes this timeless sweet truly heavenly is their light and crisp texture,

which pairs beautifully with a coffee, sweet wine or biccherino (shot) of liqueur.

Please find Jenny’s recipe for Chiacchiere on our “Mangia!” page under “Ricette”.

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