Our stay in Calabria, in Southern Italy went by so fast. Way too fast. This time it wasn’t an ordinary vacation. There were two big events. Well, actually three. We missed the first one. It was all about weddings! Considering that I have only been to a very few weddings in Italy so far, this summer I really made it up for all the previous ones.
Being invited to my cousin’s big day is one thing. Having my brother getting married only three days later is a totally different story.. This must have been the first year that I lost weight instead of gaining a few extra pounds with all that food. Being involved with wedding preparations is truly no joke. I had no idea how exhausting it would be. And I wasn’t even the bride! I’m pretty sure that it can be quite challenging for every couple around the globe, with or without wedding planner. And now imagine all of that with a generous portion of Southern Italian temperament. Oh my.. My sister-in-law’s family described it as something similar to the movie “My big fat Greek wedding”. Granted, they are German. Needless to say how big the culture shock must have been for them. But, in a very positive way ;-)
We can’t deny that everything works a little different in the South. When people say that something is ready to be picked up tomorrow, it doesn’t always necessarily mean tomorrow. Things work a little slower there. There is only one solution to survive: Equip yourself with tons of patience and even more flexibility to improvise and let things just happen without freaking out, and take it with lots of humor when you see the whole family “supporting” the planning by adding – each single one of them – their ideas and opinions (after all, we all mean it in a good way..). And last but not least: take a deep breath. OK, maybe a couple more.
My sister-in-law and my brother wanted a real Mediterranean wedding. And that’s exactly what they got. Part of the decoration were pots with herbs, lemon trees outside of the over 500 year old church, and one of the stars was probably the so cutely decorated FIAT 500 Oldtimer driving through the tiny roads of the old village! And look at that table decoration.. the tiny limoncello bottle and the clay roses. So beautiful! I don’t how many hours it took my crafty aunt to prepare that. On top, all homemade!
When the day arrived, oh let me tell you, what-a-relief for everyone!
After all, everything turned out great! And every previous effort was so, so worth it! Everybody loved it. We had lots of amazing food and even more fun dancing and enjoying everyone’s company, including our family who came over from Sicily that we had not seen in a while.
I was so curious to see what my husband’s impression would have been of how we celebrate in our village – from an American perspective – and furthermore, without any knowledge of the Italian language. In other words: he had a blast! Despite feeling quite overwhelmed after being introduced to so many family members, kissing everyone at least three times each single one that day (yes, men and women), trying to remember their names and how they are related to each other (he got lucky that there were barely ninety guests, only)…
Once we reached the restaurant my “interpreter services” were no longer needed. It didn’t take long and he ended up giving himself an Italian nickname that everybody could easily remember and pronounce, and he got a lot of new buddies who adopted him immediately into the family. Lots of gestures, glasses of local homemade liquors and wine, and traditional dances later, he pretty much earned and deserved the Italian citizenship like never before ;-)
The first thing on my list after the big celebrations was my photoshoot in the countryside, that I had been looking forward so much! After spending so many months shooting at home, it felt so refreshing and inspiring taking pictures outside surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, figs, almond trees and much more.
My first outdoor photo shoot in Calabria was this one, recording my aunt making traditional maccheroni. Last year in November I dedicated a whole post to our wonderful olive harvest experience. And now, for this third shooting I chose frese.
Frese are twice baked breads. Before you can eat them, you need to move them quickly under running water. After absorbing the water they will turn quite soft. All it takes to prepare this quick snack is a few slices of tomatoes, olive oil, a pinch of salt and oregano. Ready! Easy, isn’t it? They are being sold everywhere, and you can find them in everyone’s household. At least in our region. As far as I know they are also very common in Puglia. So, you can imagine that people usually don’t make them at home, if you can buy them everywhere for little money. We usually bring as many as possible to Germany and eat them with caution..trying to make them last as long as possible. Being a dry bread, it makes it easy to store for long periods of time. And once we have eaten them all up, why crave for them until the next Italian trip, if we can make them at home whenever we feel like it, right? They are so easy to make! The only thing that takes a little more time is waiting for the dough to rest and the baking part. That’s all.
As simple as this bread might appear, it is the best snack you can imagine. If you love tomatoes and olive oil, you need to try it! It’s the simplicity that makes it so special. You have only a very few good ingredients, and you will taste each single one of them.
I grew up with these frese. As a kid my grandma and my aunt used to make them for us in the afternoon as merenda (afternoon snack), during our summer holidays in Italy. Now we eat them also in the evenings for dinner.
I could go on and on telling you more stories about Italy, and upload even more photos. However, I didn’t even get a chance of taking all the pictures that I would have loved to take, due to the stress and running around doing a million things at once. There were so many moments that deserved a nice snapshot. For instance when our cousins showed up loaded with boxes of eggplants, zucchini, figs and prickly pears, bell peppers and many more goodies from the countryside..or my cousins from Sicily when they brought two large boxes filled with the biggest and sweetest grapes I had ever seen and eaten!
I already miss the family, the good food and the amazing hospitality that comes with it.. See you soon, my dear Calabria!
- 200 g / 7 oz flour
- 100 g / 3½ oz whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp (extra-virgin) olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh yeast
- 1½ tsp salt
- approx. 200 ml / 6¾fl oz water, lukewarm
- Place both flours into a large bowl.
- Dissolve the yeast in half of the water. Add to the flour.
- Pour in the remaining water and olive oil.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Knead to a smooth dough. Add additional flour if too sticky, or more water if too dry.
- Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- When the dough has reached about double its size, preheat the oven to 200°C / 392°F.
- Then cut the dough into five parts.
- Roll out one part of the dough quickly with your hands until you reach a length of approx. 15cm / 6''. Then connect both ends. The more rustic their look the better! No need to make them look all pretty and precise.
- Do the same with the others.
- Place as many as you can fit on a baking tray (previously covered with baking paper).
- Place in a warm place to rest for at least half an hour or longer.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let them cool off for a few minutes.
- Cut each ring in half.
- Place each half with the cut side up on the baking tray.
- Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown, firm and dry.
- Let cool off and store in a large plastic bag.