Le Marche’s Culinary Classics

Italian food has had a massive impact on the British diet in the past few decades.

Did anyone manage to see any of More4 Goes Italian this weekend? I watched some and thought it was great. I particularly enjoyed watching the Top 10 Italian classic dishes presented by Michela Chiappa. It really did make me hungry (particularly the tiramisu!) and also made me want to get in the kitchen and start cooking all of my favorite Italian classics. Just in case you missed any of it, you can catch up and add recipes to your online scrapbook here.

Le Marche is lucky enough to be a region with a long (and award winning) coastline as well as fertile soils for amazing fresh fruit and veg and the prized Marchigiani cattle. As a result, in addition to the Italian Classics featured over the weekend on More4 that we Brits have come to love and enjoy as part of our regular diet, Le Marche has some of it’s own classic dishes:

1 – Olive All’Ascolana – These tasty treats from Ascoli Piceno are olives which have had the stones removed, and are stuffed with a mixture of pork and veal and then dipped into breadcrumbs and deep fried. Yum! They are eaten as an antipasti and are a staple at any sort of celebration. In Ascoli Piceno you can enjoy these from the Migliori street vendor stall, and eat them really hot out of a cone. A real speciality – just try not to eat a whole dish at once!

olive

Photo from http://miglioriolive.it/

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Photo from http://miglioriolive.it/

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Photo from http://miglioriolive.it/

2 – Brodetto – This is a fish stew from the Ancona area. It has a tomato base and tradition specifies no less than 13 different types of fish! The Ancona tourist office have published a version of this classic regional recipe which can be found here
3 – Vincisgrassi – This is a delicious, rich and creamy white lasagne. Here is a recipe for this delicious alternative to the traditional lasagne. Let’s see if we can get Vincisgrassi into the British public’s top 10 Italian classic recipes next time round!

For more culinary treats from the Le Marche region, have a look at Marchigiani Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche.

The Marchigiani Ways

In my last post I shared and celebrated Duncan’s recent article but also commented that I felt there was so much more! So, what exactly is it that Donald’s excellent article did not discuss, and which, for me is one of the absolute gems of Le Marche that makes me come back time and time again?

The Marchigiani

The people – the Marchigiani are unbelievably stubborn and inflexible in my opinion. Not strikingly positive qualities at first glance you might think? And indeed, perhaps one of the reasons why tourism has been slower to take off in the same way as other areas of Italy.

For example, the Marchigiani still take their three hour lunch break each day. A concept which is absolutely alien to me as I’m doing well if I get time to eat a Pot Noodle at my desk while typing and talking on the phone simultaneously. When we were renovating our house in Marche, I remember flying into Ancona just before lunch and driving south along the A14 to get to the office of our Architetto. I was surprised to be met with the news that he was just going home for lunch for several hours, so perhaps I could wait until he returned. Initially I was surprised, even irritated, but then realised I actually admired this adherence to his values – why would he compromise on his lunch with his kids just because I had flown across Europe to meet with him? There were many times in the early days when we got up late, had a leisurely breakfast and then meandered our way around the mountains to some town or other, only to find that everything would be open for only another half an hour and then it was shutting for lunch. This is just one example of something being the way it has always been, and not showing any signs of changing now, for anyone. Far from finding this problematic or concerning, I am encouraged and admirable of the Marchigiani ability to hold strong to their traditional values.

English in Le Marche

Another example is the absolute disinterest in learning English. I laugh at the times when I tried to order a drink or some food in English, or perhaps trying to speak Italian but not using exactly the correct pronunciation. How many different ways are there to say “due birre” or “té”? The response was often a mix of initial curiosity, amusement and then just giving up. Even now, the simplest of drinks orders can often go so wrong, or be misunderstood because my pronunciation is not quite perfect. That’s completely apart from the endless telephone calls to Enel which (after I have spent twenty minutes navigating the automated system) ends a while later with them putting the phone down on me. It can feel as if the Marchigiani ear has never heard a foreigner struggling to learn Italian before. Well, maybe these ones haven’t, and maybe I really know that I should speak better Italian anyway.

My Thoughts On The Le Marche Guardian Article

Le Marche in The Guardian

I thought that it would be appropriate for my first blog post to share and celebrate some recent UK press coverage that the Marche region received. Donald Strachan wrote an article in The Guardian at the end of March entitled, “how to do Le Marche on a budget”. The article can be seen here.

Tourism Promotion

I am always pleased to see some publicity for the area, as I feel that still the biggest barrier to developing tourism is that people just don’t know about Le Marche. The Marche Region’s previous focus on boosting tourism resulted in this interesting video featuring Dustin Hoffman. In Italian.

I suppose a picture speaks 1000 words! The point is, you have to know what words to type into Google in the first place if you’re going to find something, and in my experience Le Marche just isn’t on people’s radar. I feel pretty sure that if it was, people would like what they found, and perhaps this blog will give some more people the right words to punch in.

Article Highlights

Donald’s article touches on the most affordable delights of Urbino, Ancona, the Adriatic coastline and it’s beaches, the inland towns, and Ascoli Piceno. It’s a solid introduction to the region, but misses out on lots (and quite legitimately, as it does not claim to be a Marche guidebook, but a short feature article in a National newspaper). So, whilst I was pleased to see this article, I was left feeling that it has missed so much of the richness of my experience of Marche. I hope that over time, this blog will be able to fill in some of the gaps and add some colour and detail to the picture. I definitely do not pretend to be an expert on Le Marche, but just wanted to create a place where I can share my experiences of the area and also provide a space for you to share yours.