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Pesto of war


It was the winter between 1917 and 1918. The Genoese lieutenant Giuseppe Chione was starving in the prisoner camp of Celle. However we are not talking about the Ligurian Celle, but the German one.
Giuseppe Chione was arrested after the battle of Caporetto and since then to survive he could only count on the meagre rations provided by the German jailers. Sadly Italian government didn’t worry a lot about its prisoners, indeed the mortality rate in Italian prison camps was even higher than at the front. 

Nevertheless there is always a silver line and,even in the crazy atmosphere of Celle.
Indeed, here was born one of the most touching testimonies of the story of the Italian cuisine!

Chioni’s  fellow prisoners were exhausted by hunger and unable to think of anything but food; one of them wrote in his diary: “we talked about food, we thought about food, we remembered food”.
Ironically Chioni found a way to keep his mind busy writing about food: he started to write a manuscript entitled “L’arte Culinaria” (The Culinary Art). There he collected the recipes that came to his mind. It was almost as if he was trying to turn the cramps of his empty stomach into a literary endeavour. And surprisingly it worked!

Casoni also involved his fellow prisoners making them describe the recipes of their lands. After allin those recipes (as Chioni would write) “ there were the caring hands of the mother and the distant bride”.
Many followed him and, at the end of the war, Celle’s prison camp published at least three recipe books that constitute one of the most important historic testimonies of Italian cuisine!

So, Chioni survived the imprisonment and returned to Genova, however his book was kept among the family papers until the XXI century:it was published in 2008. 
“L’arte culinaria”, as all the most important historical sources, overthrow deep-rooted beliefs and ironically did so with one of the foods that must have been most congenial to Chioni: the Genoese pesto!

The main character of Genoese cuisine could not be missing and it is clear that whoever reported this recipe was talking about a “family” one. It carries along some surprises for the contemporary readers.
“ Genoese pesto: Basil, garlic, parsley, onion in small quantities, spices, Sardinian cheese. Pound it in a mortar and reduce it to pulp. To use it, add raw oil”
Parsley? Onions??Spices??? What happened to the pine nuts????

Actually, the Genoese pesto recipe has only recently been codified, but once there was certainly a great amount of versions of it! So this strange recipe shouldn’t be a surprise.
However we must consider that the pangs of anger may have made the prisoners inclined to a particularly “rich” and “tasty” version. What is certain is that this was the recipe that reminded Chioni “mother’s hands”. 

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Antiche botteghe pesto guerra
Antiche botteghe pesto guerra