Feast of Seven fishes

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It all started with me meeting my Italian friend, Massimo and we were talking about Christmas coming up. And he said I love it because we always eat baccalá on Christmas Eve. We’ve already started planning the menu with my sister whose husband runs a restaurant in Pontremoli (Tuscany). What was baccala I asked him because I have never heard of it and he became so enthusiastic and told the next: Baccalá is the Feast of the Seven Fishes and it’s an Italian celebration of Christmas Eve with dishes of fish and other seafood. Although it is not called on that name in Italy and is not a “feast” in the sense of “holiday,” but rather a grand meal.-continued Massimo with wide theatrical gestures that are so characteristic of him.- -“Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day, and the abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself. Today, the meal typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus (It was introduced in the United States by Southern Italian immigrants in New York City’s Little Italy in the late 1800s.)

The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day. As no meat or animal fat could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish (typically fried in oil).

The number seven? It is unclear when or where the term “Feast of the Seven Fishes” was popularized. It may come from the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church or the Seven hills of Rome or something else. There is no general agreement on its meaning. The salted cod fish’s custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà reflects customs in what were historically impoverished regions of Southern Italy, as well as seasonal factors. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years. The meal includes seven or more fishes that are considered traditional. (In some Italian-American families, there is no count of the number of fish dishes.)

-“Our typical feast-meal’s components may include some combination of anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, baccalá (dried salt cod) smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimps, mussels and clams. The menu may also include pasta, vegetables, baked goods and don’t forget the wine.

But what happened on the other day? I talked to my Mexican friend Louis and he told me that there is no Xmas without bachalao! Okay and when I made some research on that I found out that baccala is not an Italian tradition at all, it’s rather Norwegian where dried and salted cod or saltfish which has been preserved by drying after salting (Cod which has been dried without the addition of salt is stockfish). Salt cod was long a major export of the North Atlantic region, and has become an ingredient of many cuisines around the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

Dried and salted cod has been produced for over 500 years in Newfoundland, Iceland and the Faroe Island and most particularly in Norway where it is called klippfisk, literally “cliff-fish”. Traditionally it was dried outdoors by the wind and sun, often on cliffs and other bare rock-faces. Today klippfisk is usually dried indoors with the aid of electric heaters. In Norway, Bacalao refers  to a “stockfish/klippfisk casserole” with tomatoes, olives, onions, and peppers, but not always, because of the numerous recipes for this Norwegian fish dish. However, it is always made with salted, dried cod, (stockfish) as the main ingredient. Kristiansund S, is a city well known for their version of Bacalao. Other parts of the country have their own special way of making Bacalao.

But before it can be eaten, salt cod must be rehydrated and desalinated by soaking in cold water for one to three days, changing the water two to three times a day. The best Norwegian recipe comes from Kristiansand from a small but famous village of Norway. Here is the best recipe of baccalá:

1 lb salted cod, 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, 6 or less large onions, chopped, 1/4 cup (or less) olive oil, 3 tablespoons dry sherry, 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned whole tomatoes work great) 4 tablespoons green olives, sliced, 5 cloves garlic, minced, 1 fresh or dried jalapeno pepper minced
4-ounces pimientos, 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Greek optional), 1/2 teaspoon oregano (optional)
Freshly ground pepper, salt to taste

Soak salted cod for 12 hours Change water every 4 hours. Drain and shred fish. Saute onions and garlic in oil.
Add oregano, parsley, olives, pimentos, jalapenos, wine and simmer.
Layer sauteed vegetables, potatoes,shredded fish, salt and pepper.Drizzle remainder of the oil.
Bake at 350°F. for 35-40 minutes and you have Bacalao. Serve with Greek or Italian bread and salad and of course, don’t forget your favorite bottle of wine. Skål!

There is no Christmas without baccalá

In Europe, the baccalá dish is prepared for the table in a wide variety of ways; most commonly with potatoes and onions in a casserole, as croquettes, or as battered, deep-fried pieces. In France, brandade de morue is a popular baked gratin dish of potatoes mashed with rehydrated salted cod, seasoned with garlic and olive oil. Some Southern France recipes skip the potatoes altogether and blend the salted cod with seasonings into a paste. There is a particularly wide variety of salt cod (bacalhau) dishes 

In several islands of the West Indies, it forms the basis of the common dish saltfish. In Jamaica, the national dish is ackee and saltfish. In Bermuda, it is served with potatoes, avocado, banana and boiled egg in the traditional codfish and potato breakfast.

In Liverpool England, prior to the post-war slum clearances, especially around the docks salt fish was a popular traditional Sunday morning breakfast.

In Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, (In Greece, fried cod is often served with skordalia), Brazil, the term Bacalao is used for stockfish (salted dried cod). In Spain (bacalao/bacalhau), the recipe calls for stockfish, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, Spanish peppers, and oil and they call it Bacalao en Salza.Bacalao, an international affair…In Mexico, where there will not be Christmas without Bacalao, they combine shredded stockfish with salsa, finely diced onions, chili, olive oil, almonds, parsley, cubed potatoes, capers, olives and simmer it slowly and they have Christmas Bacalao. In some regions of Mexico it is fried with egg batter, then simmered in red sauce and served for Christmas dinner.

At the supermarket you can find frozen ready-made Bacalao for your convenience if you live in Norway, that is. In the United States, salted, dried cod/klippfisk can be found in a 1-lb wooden box in your grocer’s meat department, or frozen in 1-lb packages at Walmarts.

Blueberry festival in Belgium: The Witch and the Black Goat

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While witches have always existed in the Salm valley, just like anywhere else, the folklore group of the Macralles du Val de Salm from Belgium has only been in existence since 1955. Every year on 20 of July, the Macralles gather at a place: called Tienne-Messe to celebrate their Sabbath. This “Son et lumière” show stages amusing anecdotes about what has happened to certain of the people of the Salm valley during the last year, all in the Walloon dialect. Then the next day, they march in procession through the streets of the he Fête des Myrtilles (Blueberry Festival – July 21). The story of the Macralles is drawn from a local legend: the legend of Gustine Makra.

The course of the event: Every July 20 and for 24 hours, the “Neurès Bièsses” (the Macralles) symbolically take possession of the key of the city, and gather on the rocks of Tiennemesse to hold their Sabbath in the presence of their master, the “NeûrBo” (the Black Goat), who is none other than the Devil. This ceremony attracts more than 2,000 spectators every year. The macralleboast, in the local patois, of their harmful activities perpetrated during the year, whose targets are very diverse.

From 7:30 pm, musical and visual entertainment in the streets of Vielsalm

At 9:30 pm: taking the keys to the city; the macralles invade the communal park! During a scenario reviewed every year, they seize the key to the great displeasure of the mayor and the country guard. They then demand power for a period of 24 hours.
The “Neurès Bièsses” (the macralles) then gather at a place called Tiennemesse.
They review funny events and anecdotes of local and regional life. The devil, Neûr Bo (black goat) presides over this ceremony full of magic, terror and laughter. Every year, more than a thousand spectators witness this real sound and light.
Highlights of the Sabbath: – the arrival by the air of witches, with the help of their broom of course! – the establishment of the cauldron where the emmacrallée potion, the “tcha-tcha” will be concocted – the arrival of the devil on an authentic hearse – the enthronements of personalities, greeted by hunting horns and artifices. Not to mention the various more or less skilful attempts of the Country Guard (“the Emmacrallé”) who tries, without much success it must be said, to put an end to the Sabbath and tries to make public order reign!

Who has already once attended the Sabbath in the past should not be afraid to see the same things again from year to year because the Sabbath changes over the years. If we always strive to maintain a common frame to the various performances, we seek above all constantly not to tire the faithful spectators, especially through the use of many accessories and disguises, as well as music adapted and composed by our technical team. The lighting and a studied pyrotechnics make it possible to stage the highlights of the Sabbath, to enhance the play of the actors and the visual effects.
The “Neurès Bièsses” also take advantage of this sound and light show to induct certain personalities, both local and national, and thus confer on them the title of “Baron des Frambâches”. The ritual of enthronement consists in making the future Barons taste the “tcha-tcha” (potion based on crushed blueberries) and to make them ride
and broom and repeat the sentence that will “emmacraller” them forever: “Sôte, Mirôte, oût hayes èt bouchons!”

On the Sabbath are also enthroned the young Macralles nicknamed the ” loumerottes “. The loumerottes only become real Macralles after two years of apprenticeship.
After the Sabbath, a reception is organized and brings together all the members of the Macralles group, as well as the Barons of the Frambâches and the sympathizers. The opportunity for everyone to meet, and to sign the Golden Book, a real treasure illustrated by many cartoonists, each more prestigious than the other…

In addition to the outdoor processions, the Macralles are of course rampant in their own locality; collection of eggs and giant omelette offered each beginning of the year, local entertainment etc. 

By the way every October 31 from 1999 to 2008, the Macralles also organized the Halloween party for children: torchlight procession in the streets of the locality, followed by a ball for all the little devils and other monsters!
Between 2000 and 2010, the Macralles of the Val de Salm were the initiators of 7 “Great Gatherings of Witches”.
The program of these diabolical days expanded as the editions went on: artisanal market ofthewitch, street entertainment: storytellers, fire-eaters, jugglers, magicians, puppet theater, medieval musicians and other troubadours.

In the evening, a large international procession of groups of witches took place: “sisters” came especially from the whole of Belgium, but also from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland; as early as 2001, for the first time in Belgium, the presence of luminous electric floats in the procession, always on the theme of witchcraft, which will dazzle more than one!

For the pleasure of the eyes, no less than 8,000 light points are needed per tank to perfect the magic of the show. The closing evening in the communal park is placed under the sign of fire, accompanied by wild music.

The legend of Gustine Makra: she had managed to awaken the fairies and gnomes from hibernation, but she had also revived tormentors and ghosts, werewolves and demons. Fortunately, the later canonized Gengoux, long ago, managed to conjure up the Beings of Darkness. But now that almost 1313 years have passed, they are about to wake up again… Do you manage to make contact with above- , extraterranean and subterranean creatures and reveal the Mysteries of the Macralle? You can learn the language of the black magicians, who not only uses words, but also sound vibrations –and waves, sound patterns and music? After all, don’t you shy away from fighting Gustine Makra & her Creatures of Darkness, and putting them back to sleep with the appropriate formula.

A Swedish bun to die for

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Those who have dealt with the Swedish national sport “fika” (coffee and cake) certainly already heard of the Semla. Whether you know it or not, this wheat pastry, filled with almond cream and whippid cream, it is a must. The Semla is so popular, it even has its own day in the Swedish calendar. In addition to cream and almond cream (a kind of marzipan), cardamom gives the Semla its typical taste, which you can experience through half spring in Sweden. The Semla tastes particularly good on The Day of The Semla, which falls on February 28th this year. The Day of The Semmel is a variation on a tradition called “Fettisdagen”, the fat Tuesday, on which one was allowed to treat oneanother before Lent.

Although the Semla is delicious, in the last few years the craziest variations have been in the hands of Stockholmers. In the race for the craziest Semla, there was already everything from semmel wraps, semmel pizzas, a hot dog semla and a bread crumb. The Semla used to be popular, for example, as it is said that the former king Adolf Frederick of Sweden loved so much the semla that he died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut (cabbage), smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by fourteen helpings of hetvägg (semla).

semla is a traditional sweet roll made in various forms in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, associated with Lent and especially Shrove Tuesday in most countries. In Sweden it’s most commonly known as just semla (plural: semlor), but is also known as fettisdagsbulle (lit. “fat tuesday roll“). When it is served in a bowl of hot milk is hetvägg. The name semla (plural, semlor) is a loan word from German Semmel, originally deriving from the Latin simila, meaning ‘flour, itself a borrowing from Greek (semidalis), “groats which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.

Today, the Swedish-Finnish semla consists of a cardamon-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off, and is then filled with a mix of milk and almond pasta topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Today it is often eaten on its own, with coffee or tea. Some prefer to eat it in a bowl of hot milk. In Finland, the bun is often filled with strawberry or raspberry jam instead of almond paste, and bakeries in Finland usually offer both versions. (Many bakeries distinguish between the two by decorating the traditional bun with almonds on top, whereas the jam-filled version has powdered sugar on top). In Finland Swedish semla means a plain wheat bun, used for bread and butter, and not a sweet bun. At some point Swedes grew tired of the strict observance of Lent, added cream and almond paste to the mix and started eating semla every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter. Every year, at around the same time that the bakeries fill with semlor, the Swedish newspapers start to fill with semla taste tests. Panels of ‘experts’ dissect and inspect tables full of semlor to find the best in town.

Some bakeries have created alternative forms of the pastry, such as the “semmelwrap” formed as a wrap rather than the traditional bun, while others have added e.g. chocolate, marzipan, or pistachios to the recipe

In Finland and Estonia the traditional dessert predates Christian influences. Laskiaissunnuntai and laskiaistiistai were festivals when children and youth would go sledding or downhill sliding on a hill or a slope to determine how the crop would yield in the coming year. Those who slid the farthest were going to get the best crop. Hence the festival is named after the act of sliding or sledding downhill, laskea. Nowadays laskiainen has been integrated into Christian customs as the beginning of lent before Easter

Hetvägg or Semla

However the oldest version of the semla was a plain bread bun, eaten in a bowl of warm milk. In Swedish this is known as hetvägg, from Middle Low German hete Weggen (hot wedges) or German heisse Wecken (hot buns) and falsely interpreted as “hotwall”. The semla was originally eaten only on Shrove Tuesday, as the last festive food before Lent. However, with the arrival of the Protestant Reformation, the Swedes stopped observing a strict fasting for Lent. The semla in its bowl of warm milk became a traditional dessert every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter. Today, semlor are available in shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter. Each Swede consumes on average four to five bakery-produced semlor each year, in addition to any that are homemade.

The recipe

For the BUN INGREDIENTS: 4 1/4 cups milk, 1.4 oz dry yeast, 12 oz melted butter, 4 eggs, 1 ¾ cups caster sugar, 1-2 tsp salt, 1.5 tbsp ground cardamom, 13.5 cups white flour

FOR THE SWEDISH SEMLA Almond paste – one small container was plenty Powdered sugar Whipping cream

FOR THE FINNISH SEMLA: Raspberry or Strawberry Jam Whipping cream

Directions: Dissolve the sugar in the milk over heat. Do not allow the milk to boil. Allow the mixture to cool until you can withstand testing the heat with your finger for several seconds. (You don’t want to kill the yeast!) When cool enough, add the yeast to the milk. Let sit for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and allow to cool for a minute or two. Add the eggs. Add the egg/butter mixture to the milk/sugar/yeast mixture. Add the salt, cardamom, and flour. Run in a mixture with a dough hook or knead until smooth and only slightly sticky.

Cover the dough and let rise until doubled in size. You can refrigerate the dough at this point, but be aware it will take the buns a very long time to rise if you do.

Weigh your buns. 110 grams for very large buns and 35 grams for smaller buns. (I prefer the smaller as the large are very difficult to eat.) Roll each bun until smooth. Let buns rise until doubled. You will really be able to see the lightness. Use a pastry brush to brush each bun with an egg wash.

While baking, whip the cream.

FOR THE SWEDISH SEMLA Cut off the tops of each bun.1Scoop out a pocket of bread. Preserve the breadcrumbs. Mix the bread crumbs with almond paste – to taste. I used a foodprocessor. Add in enough whipped cream to moisten and make it all hold together. Refill the pockets with the almond paste mixture. Cut each top into a triangle. Replace each top.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

FOR THE FINNISH VERSION Cut the top off each bun. Spread a generous amount of jam onto each bun Top with whipped cream. Replace the top.STEP 22Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, depending on the size.

The sophisticated pumpkin

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I have a kind of love and hate relationship with the pumpkin. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the sweet and slimy pumpkin baked in the oven. But in San Francisco after eating a pumpkin soup, I fell in love with. And since I’ve been living in Germany for a decade, I’ve tried almost 100 variations of pumpkin dishes. The Germans especially prefer it at fall.

All about pumpkin

The pumpkin is a cultivar of winter squash. Native to North America (northeastern Mexico and the southern United States), and they are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Nowadays pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use and as food, aesthetics, and recreational purposes. Pumpkin pie, for instance, is a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in Canada and the United States, and pumpkins are frequently carved as jack-o’-lanterns for decoration around Halloween, although commercially canned pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the ones used for jack-o’-lanterns.

So as we can see pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, pumpkins are a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purées. Often, it is made into pumpkin pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.

Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as summer squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In the Indian subcontinent, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine. In China and Korea, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia and New Zealand pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, I lived in Hokkaido, where small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioly. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo, respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them. Pumpkin leaves are also eaten in Zambia, where they are called chibwabwa and are boiled and cooked with groundnut paste as a side dish. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are edible and nutrient-rich

Traditionally Britain and Ireland would carve lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnipmangelwurzel, or swede, they continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866. In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o’-lanterns.

Association of pumpkins with harvest time and pumpkin pie at Canadian and American Thanksgiving reinforce its iconic role. Starbucks turned this association into marketing with its pumpkin spice latte, introduced in 2003. This has led to a notable trend in pumpkin and spice flavored food products in North America. This is despite the fact that North Americans rarely buy whole pumpkins to eat other than when carving jack-o’-lanterns. Illinois farmer Sarah Frey is called “the Pumpkin Queen of America” and sells around five million pumpkins annually, predominantly for use as lanterns!

Growers of giant pumpkins often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions. I participated in one in Ludwigsburg/Germany two years ago. It was a mega event! Pumpkins everywhere. The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was, 1,190.5 kg (2,624.6 lb), and was established in Belgium in 2016.

In the United States, the town of  Half Moon Bay California, holds an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival, including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

Pumpkin festival in Germany/Ludwigsburg

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The fall is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to visit the world’s largest pumpkin festival in southwestern Germany? You probably never knew that there are 800 different kinds of pumpkin in the world and at the Blooming Baroque (Blühenden Barock), the gardens surrounding Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, is home to this annual event with over 600 varieties and over 450,000 pumpkins on display for all to see.

Facts: Each year the festival chooses a new theme keeping return visitors coming back again and again. The theme for 2016 was Rome, 2019 was “Fantastic World of Fairytales” and this year, in 2020 the theme is “Music.” As you make your way around, be sure to have your camera ready. You will see hundreds of thousands of pumpkins transform into interesting creations. The imagination and planning put into the design of these displays are mind-blowing. My respect to all of those working hard behind the scenes to make this event a success! Chapeau!

Food: Be sure to bring your appetite. There are plenty of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks, and if you are lucky some free samples along the way. Delicious pumpkin beers, pumpkin lattes, champagnes and wines are available. The food menu has plenty to offer to range from pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin burgers, (it was excellent) spaghetti with pumpkin and the list goes on and on. Not a fan of pumpkin? Don’t worry there is plenty of traditional German fare to choose from, as well.

Shopping: For those of you eager to take a pumpkin home, there is a large array of pumpkins for purchase and even carving kits, too. In a shopping area and vendors to find decorative and food items such as: pumpkin Secco, pumpkin tea, a variety of pumpkin spice mixes for soups and other dishes, pumpkin ketchup, pumpkin fruit spread, roasted pumpkin seeds and so on, endless…

Just walking the grounds of Ludwigsburg’s Residential Palace warrants a trip in itself. As one of Germany’s largest Baroque palaces, the palace and the grounds are a must-see while visiting the area. If time allows, guided tours of the inside of the palace are offered in multiple languages. Not to mention, by purchasing admission to the pumpkin festival you will also have access to the infamous fairy tale gardens with over 30 scenes and activities for children big and small. The gardens include a funky little cave/tunnel that leads you from one part of the gardens into a little aviary where you could see a small collection of birds and ducks.

From the well-manicured landscaping to the dreamy fountains and impressive architecture, this is definitely a sight you will not want to miss. Add in some seasonable fun and it makes a perfect day trip for the whole family. Something that I did not expect to see was a huge display of pumpkins labeled with their origin country. I found it fascinating to look at all the different varieties of pumpkins and to see where each one originated from. I definitely recommend stopping by this interesting showcase of pumpkins.

Events: The festival hosts numerous special events on designated dates (from the end of August-to the end of December). Ranging from pumpkin carving contests to smashing pumpkins, to pumpkin weigh-ins to ‘tales from the pumpkin patch’, a beloved storytime for children, to the largest pot of pumpkin soup in Germany cooked and served to visitors.

But my favorite event of all is the German pumpkin paddling championship. Where competitors race in giant hollowed-out gourds to victory across the castle lake!

Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup

In keeping with the tradition, the pumpkin chefs of the Pumpkin Gourmet whip up the biggest pumpkin soup in Germany each year.  This way, the Pumpkin Festival at Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg can once again did a good deed: for every dish of the record-breaking soup sold, they donate up to 1 Euro to the Helferherz campaign in the district of Ludwigsburg! And to raise as much as possible, the soup has to be enormous: the pot holds 555 litres of pumpkin soup and around 2000 servings. The pumpkin chefs are happy to swing their wooden spoons to ensure that even this huge amount of soup will taste delicious. If the pot is finished, the Pumpkin Festival organizer (Jucker Farm) will donate a further 50 cents per portion, to make the donation amount 1 Euro per portion consumed. So “lick your bowls clean” on one weekend and have set a goal of finishing the enormous pot of soup not just once, but twice!

Wedding with Italian pastas

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July is a perfect month for a beautiful wedding! Couples always strive to make their wedding one of the most memorable days of their lives. Choosing a destination wedding can lead you to beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountain views or the enchanting setting of a foreign country like Italy. Italy is so ideal and wonderful place for your destination wedding, but you may want to know about some of the wedding customs in Italy before you start planning!

1.The rehearsal dinner is a highly celebrated event filled with pasta dishes and family. Traditionally, there are two common toasts that are giving during the rehearsal dinner. The Hundred Years or “Per cent’anni” toast is given from the best man to wish luck to the newlyweds. The “evviva gli sposi!” or “hooray for the newlyweds” is the second toast given. Both of these wedding customs in Italy are done with glasses of Prosecco or Italian champagne in hand. Green is a color of good luck and most Italian brides will wear a green sash or emerald brooch at the rehearsal dinner. Brides who are bold enough can find something green to wear to really stick with this tradition.

2. Italian weddings are intimate gathering. The bridal party is kept small usually, only consisting of a best man and maid of honor. A ribbon is tied across the doorway of where the nuptials are taking place to let everyone know there is a wedding being held. The bride and groom also do their part to bring as much luck to the union as possible. Most grooms will ward off evil spirits with a small piece of iron kept in their pockets, while the brides will make a small rip in their veils to welcome good luck.

3. The reception dinner of course focuses on food and some Italian weddings have been known to carry on through fourteen course! You don’t have to adhere to those wedding customs in Italy like this one, but foods should be fresh, seasonal and savory. Start with an appetizer of prosciutto or olives with a main course that is a pasta dish with a thick sauce. Veal and Venison are common traditional main course options. For dessert offer wanda (bowties) which are fried dough twisted and dusted with powdered sugar.

4. The garter and the groom’s tie: Many cultures around the world practice some variation of a bridal garter tradition. According to Italy Magazine it dates back to the 14th century and is said to bring good luck. In the U.S. the groom removes the garter and tosses it to a group of bachelors, lined up at the event. The one who catches it is said to be the next to wed. In Italy the garter is torn to pieces and given out to guests. If the bride is found garter-less her right shoe is removed and thrown.

5. In Italy there is also a tradition surrounding the groom’s tie that is similar to the garter. Before sitting down to eat his tie is removed, cut into pieces, and given to male guests who offer the newlyweds a cash contribution for it

5. La tarantella: Guest will wish the newlyweds good luck through a dizzying dance known as “La Tarantella”. Guest will circle around the couple and move in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction to music that will gradually speed up in tempo. The speed of the music increases and the dancers will reverse directions until the group succumbs to the music.

6. The vehicle: raditionally, Italians will pave the way to a sweet life by decorating the front grills of their vehicles. Instead of roping cans to your cars after a wedding, Italians will place flowers and ribbons to the front of the cars.


Food and wine are major issues of Italian wedding traditions. It is such an integral part of the culture in general that it naturally has a primary emphasis at an Italian wedding reception. Receptions here tend to be quite lavish starting with the traditional Aperitivo. For western society it is similar to cocktail hour, but with a great deal more food. After aperitivo the full meal is served, which generally includes primo – often two or more pasta dishes, then secondo of a main meat dish and sides. There is a funny tradition at the traditional Italian wedding’s to have a dish from two different pastas. It’s called the Maritati Pasta/married pasta and it is a combination of pasta containing half orecchiette (female) and half handmade maccheroni (male) in the shape of small penne or penis (in Italian there is a word for this pasta: “minchiareddi” which means small penis)! Together they represent the union of  man and the woman! 

This custom is originated from Puglia, from one of the most beautiful region of Italy. Nowadays this pasta represents the traditional Sunday lunch dish as well and is characterized by the combination of orecchiette and macaroni together.

For dessert Italian brides have adopted the American and English tradition of a grand tiered wedding cake. They have also started creating an Italian version of a ‘candy bar’ with a table of different flavored sugar almonds called ‘confettata‘, spread out among candles, flowers, cages, and other decor. You will find candy coated Jordan almonds, confetti, served in place of a wedding cake at traditional Italian weddings. These candies represent the bitter and the sweet future that lies ahead of the couple in Italy. Mille-foglia is an alternate to a wedding cake you can serve, which consists of layers of filo pastry, chocolate or vanilla cream, and strawberries.

Here is the recipe of the maritati pasta

Ingredients: 1/2 pound homemade Orecchiette, 1/2 pound homemade Maccheroni Casarecci, 1 onion, chopped finely, 56 ounces crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound grated Pecorino cheese, 1/4 pound bread crumbs, 4 large eggs, 4 cloves garlic finely chopped, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper, oil for frying

In a sauce pan, add 4 tbs of EV olive oil and the onion finely chopped.

Once the onion is translucent add the white wine, let it evaporate for 1 minute and add the tomatoes and two leaves of basil cut in large pieces by hand. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and cook at medium flame for about 15 minutes.

Meantime, prepare the polpettine (meatballs).In a bowl, add the ground beef, the cheese, bread crumbs, eggs and the parsley and garlic both very finely chopped.

Mix all the ingredients very well and roll the polpettine about 1/2″ in diameter or smaller.

Once you have made all the meatballs, lightly fry them (1-2 mins) in olive oil.

Put all the meatballs in the sauce and continue to cook for another 15 mins. with the pan uncovered.Cook the Maritati Pasta to an Al Dente consistency, pour in a large platter, mix with the sauce and meatballs and serve. Garnish with grated pecorino and fresh basil.

Hickory glazed grill meats

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Hickory is a type of tree, comprising the genus Carya, which includes around 18 species. Five or six species are native to China, Vietnam, and India (Assam), as many as twelve are native to the United States, four are found in Mexico, and two to four are from Canada. A number of hickory species are used for products like edible nuts or wood.

Grill season favorite

Get ready for some prime dining. This roast meat is rubbed with a Dijon, garlic, and herb seasoning then slow-roasted over hickory hardwood for amazing smoke flavor!

Ingredients: 1, 4- bone, about 8 lbs prime rib roast, 3 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 4 cloves garlic, mashed to a pasta, 2 tsp dried thyme, 2 tsp dried rosemary, salt and black pepper, rib rub (Smoked hickory sauce), horseradish for serving

If the roast has a fat cap more than 1/4-inch thick, trim it with a sharp knife or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Tie the roast between the bones with butcher’s string. This discourages the eye of the meat from separating from the cap.

Methods: In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. If the dried rosemary needles are long, finely chop them before adding.

Slather the outside of the roast with the mustard paste and season generously with Traeger Prime Rib Rub on all sides. Cook immediately, or refrigerate, uncovered, for up to 8 hours.

When ready to cook, start the Traeger according to grill instructions. Set the temperature to 250 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10-15 minutes.

Put the prime rib directly on the grill grate, fat-side up. Roast for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat (the tip of the temperature probe should be in the center of the meat) reaches 125 to 130 degrees F for rare, or for medium-rare, 135 degrees F. Do not overcook.

Transfer meat to a cutting board – preferably one with a deep well so you don’t lose the juices – and loosely tent the meat with foil. Allow meat to rest for 20 minutes. Snip the strings.

To carve, use a sharp knife to remove the rack of bone following the curvature of the meat. Carve the meat across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve with horseradish, if desired. Enjoy!

Hickory sauce glazed Chicken

Ingredients: 1  lb chicken legs and thighs, 2 tbsp barbecue seasoning rub, 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1  tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cup your favorite bbq sauce use less or more to your taste

For the Grill: great quality charcoal I use Kingsford Original

Hickory wood chips make sure that you soak them for at least 1 hour prior to using them


Rinse and clean 1 pound of chicken legs and thighs. Season with homemade barbecue rub. Drizzle chicken with extra-virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Using your hands, make sure chicken is nicely coated. Marinate for 4 hours or overnight.

Soak hickory woodchips for at least one hour before grilling. Heat charcoal. Once charcoal is nice and hot, place woodchips directly on top of charcoal. Cook chicken over indirect heat for approximately 25 minutes. Dab barbecue sauce on chicken. Every 20 to 25 minutes, turn and baste the chicken with the barbecue sauce until the chicken is cooked throughout and the sauce is sticky. Remove the chicken from the grill and serve while hot!