di Michela Pierallini
Hypnosis: I wonder if you can call it that, the feeling of stillness that keeps me anchored to the chair and doesn’t let me see anything but the potato field and sacks of flour to dip my hands into immediately, at this very moment! But maybe it’s better if I start from the beginning. I receive an invitation to spend an evening at the Prime Gemme farm, owned by the Ruggeri family, where Mariella Fabbris a well known actress from the Piedmont region will recite the Beato Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi while at the same time preparing the dumplings we’re going to eat. Don’t judge me, but I do not know the actress, and thanks to my blissful ignorance not even the Beato Angelico. They are both good reasons to accept, I guess. I call my friend Patti, whose name is really Patrizia Spinelli and who had the misfortune to be my English teacher, and she in turn invites her cousin Alex, Alessandro Pagotto. Coat, shoes and away!
This is not the first time I am a guest of the Prime Gemme. In the summer I enjoyed, and never a word has been so appropriate, a violin and piano concert, and an opera singer so exciting and amazing to make me shudder. Not surprisingly, I gladly accept the invitations I receive from Alberto Ruggeri, owner, together with the family, of Le Colture of Valdobbiadene. His class and good taste is a guarantee for me. Not to mention that his Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG is a fine Prosecco Superiore, elegant and refined which I always drink with joy. The idea for tonight, to be honest, is the work of Cynthia Luxardo, press office of Le Colture a friendly and with a very sunny personality. I can never thank her enough.
It ‘s dark when we arrive, and we do not see the panorama around the farm but I know there are vineyards and plenty of greenery, flowers, trees and a beautiful garden where there are often lit lanterns and candles that make it very magical. We enter the room where Veronica Ruggeri, Alberto‘s sister, greets us with a welcome drink. The chairs are arranged as in the theater but instead of the stage there is a long table laden with tomatoes, basil, flour, potatoes, and all you need to knead the dumplings. I’m very curious! I have attended cooking classes and I have been to theater several times, but I would never have thought to dine with gnocchi (potato dumplings) “recited” by a theater actress without a stage. And what an actress! The talent is recognized by the vibrations that get under your skin and …
And … what an actress! Her talent can be recognized by the vibrations that get under your skin and take you to another dimension. Without realizining it you’re somewhere else, you’re in the potato field, on the granite bench, on the branch of the tree where the bird lands and speaks. The voice of Mariella now high, now low, now musical cradles me, excites me, wakes me up, lights up in me the desire to knead. Boiled potatoes, potato masher, flour and hands moving over the wooden chopping board.
Loaves, small pieces and then gnocchi. It ‘a dance, it is the dance of abundance: all you need is imagination, and patience, a lot of that, and potatoes, the right ones, otherwise the gnocchi come apart . Yellow, white, as long as they starchy, steamed with the skin and mashed still hot. No egg, only flour and potatoes to make small soft clouds like the thick foam of a beer. I smile, even laugh, a laugh of a child, fresh and spontaneous. I am six years and I would like to run to the back of the house to spy on the bird, to eavesdrop, to smell.
Mariella enchants and the gnocchi, meanwhile, are cooked in the kitchen with the help of her son Joel. Gnocchi with tomato sauce, with pesto sauce, with Morlacco cheese and with radicchio. Sweet dumplings as they were cooked in Polesine by Mariella‘s grandmother, with Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins soaked in melted butter. Traditions disappear but every so often, fortunately, peep out.
Some time has passed, between a laugh and another we have concluded this dinner of dumplings and prosecco superiore, Fagher brut, extra dry Pianer and to end the evening zaleti, typical biscuits mixed with maize flour and raisins, accompanied by Le Colture Cartizze.
Nobody gets up, we do not want to go away, and why should we? Mariella presents us with a huge book where you can write a dedication. I am a joker and I write in Tuscan. I ask where I can see her again and I am glad to know that she moves according to the availability of kitchens. Who has a kitchen large enough to accommodate at least twenty people can call her and she arrives with a suitcase full of flour, potatoes and laughter. Who comes forward?
Many thanks to thephotographerJoeMuradorforbeing so kindto give methese beautifulshots