It takes Just a scent to rekindle a sweet memory , linked to a flavour that tastes of a simpler past, rich in history and tradition.
This is what happens every year when the smell of the first traditional Rocca Priora Passover Easter cakes, prepared with love and passion by my mother, invade the rooms of our house. This scent, is how my grandfather, now at the threshold of his 85th year retraces his childhood Easters every year of a long-awaited festival.
He tells us how those aromas are so similar to those he breathed in his small childhood house, and all the streets in the old town centre of his beloved Rocca Priora.
All the women of the village used to prepare the feast, Easter breakfast was an opportunity to gather the whole family around the table in front of so many delicacies that in times of poverty were a rarity.
The queens of Easter breakfast were both cresciuta pizzas and sbattuta pizza that my grandfather likes to describe with a childs words, the pizza of the poor and the pizza of the rich. Both two deliciously sweet recipes.
He tells me how all the women gathered in front of the ovens of the towns to prepare sbattuta pizza on site. In a large metal tub the eggs were poured and beaten with bamboo canes, anticipatory of the action of modern mixers.
Once mixed to perfection with enough flour and sugar added, the dough was ready to be baked. Outputs from the pizza ovens, were placed on pastry boards. And so the small streets of the towns became filled with women carrying sweets on pastry boards on their heads to the dining rooms of their homes.
At that time eggs were a difficult product to find and to make one sbattuta pizza it takes about ten: so only the most wealthy families were there in abundance. The young brides, as a token of their love, had to prepare at least a kilo of pizza to give to the family of their future husband.
For cresciuta pizzas however you would have had to buy a kilo of mother yeast from the bakers, that was then worked with eggs, butter, cottage cheese, sugar and star anise. The dough was divided into small quantities in copper containers suitable for cooking and left to rest being expected to double its volume so that it was ready to be cooked.
With a kilo of yeast one could make 6-7 pizzas and ingredients such as butter and cheese were easier to possess for Roccaprioresi as the villagers were mostly shepherds.
Ready-made pizzas were kept in small houses in the arches of the kitchens and they could not be eaten until the priest on Good Friday went into each home to bless them.
But grandfather remembers that the smell was so inviting and the hunger was so much that as a child, he ate only the inside of the pizza to silence his hunger and afterwards he prepared a nice surprise to give his mom on Easter Sunday.
And for the many who remember we can only imagine the reaction of ‘Peppina la gricia la sediara di Rocca Priora’ (grey haired grandmother seat place maker of Rocca Priora)