Tag Archives: Garibaldi

Mangia! Mangia! – Zabaione, the Italian Dolce, Rarely Found in Italy

In the mid-1980s, I was sitting at the counter of the newly-opened Jackson Filmore Trattoria in San Francisco. I had finished a dinner that included gnocchi “come nuvole” (like clouds) as the Jack, the chef/owner, liked to say, when the subject of a dolce came up. “Have the zabaione,” Jack said. “Trust me.”

My seat at the counter was only a few yards from the kitchen stove. I watched as the pastry chef whipped up egg yokes in a deep round copper bowl, adding only Masala wine and sugar, and heating the mixture slowly as he whisked. Copper conducted the heat from the boiling water bath evenly, which allowed him to control the cooking process.

Zabaione (photo jacksonfilmoresf.com)
Zabaione (photo jacksonfilmoresf.com)

The volume of heavenly, luxurious yellow foam expanded as I watched. Served over strawberries, the warm zabaione flowing over the rim of a stemmed glass … no wonder I still remember this fabulous dessert thirty years later.

In 1998, I moved to Florence and stayed for over fifteen years. I thought my life would be filled with zabaione. Apparently no restaurant in Italy serves it and no home cook makes it anymore. A Florentine answered my wishful griping by saying that it was a dish made by mothers for their children and is too much trouble these days. I found zabaione gelato at Gelateria Vivoli in the late 90s and many artisanal gelaterias in Italy offer zabaione-flavored ice cream today.

Zabaione, an almost extinct classic sweet (kept alive only in America and still served at Jackson Filmore), is the perfect light, not overly sweet, ending to a dinner. The traditional recipe calls for only three ingredients—eggs, sugar and Marsala wine—and can be whipped up in just a few minutes. It’s useful to have a strong arm and a copper bowl.

Zabaione, also know as Zabaglione in the U.S. (photo fioriogelati.it)
Zabaione, also know as Zabaglione in the U.S. (photo fioriogelati.it)

One of the custard-like sauces that use egg yolks to thicken a liquid—crema pasticciera, hollandaise sauce and mayonnaise, come to mind—making zabaione is simpler in concept than in practice. Zabaione, like the others, is an emulsion, and the proportion of fat to liquid plays an important role. It requires patience when adding the Marsala to the egg yolks to prevent separation and care not to overheat and curdle the mixture.

The perfect copper pot for making zabaione (photo kitchenamore.it)
The perfect copper pot for making zabaione (photo kitchenamore.it)

Marsala is the most common wine used to make zabaione. But Gina DePalma, former pastry chef at Babbo Ristorante in NYC, makes her zabaione with Vin Santo, “because it is a wine with both sweetness and acidity.” She sometimes combine the Vin Santo with rum or grappa. In the Italian region of  Piedmonte, where zabaione originated, it is often made with bubbly Moscato D’Asti, a sweet local wine made with muscat grapes, or another Piedmontese wine, Brachetto D’Acqui.

marsala_vino_superiore_NI’m no cook, only an enthusiastic “good fork” (as they say in Italy), so I won’t give you the recipe or full instructions here. But I recommend a slow reading of home-cook Frank’s post on Memorie di Angelina and professional pastry chef Gina DePalma’s write-up on Serious Eats. Both describe how to make the traditional zabaione that has been made for centuries in Italy. Mika at The 350 Degree Oven adds whipping cream. This allows for either a warm zabaione or the cold thick zabaione, popular in the United States.

I favor the warm eggy zabaione, made without heavy cream, served immediately after it’s made, allowing the aroma of Marsala to waft about me as I savor its sweetness with every bite. Hopefully, while sitting at the counter in Jackson Filmore Trattoria.

Tuscan Traveler’s Picks – Women Artists Now More Visible at the Uffizi

INVISIBLE WOMEN, a documentary based on the book Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence, written by American Jane Fortune (The Florentine Press, 2009) won an Emmy award on June 1, 2013, as the Best Documentary in the Cultural/Historical Program category by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The documentary, produced by WFYI Productions of Indianapolis, was recently aired on American public television (PBS).

Tuscan Traveler's Favorite Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi (Uffizi)
Tuscan Traveler’s Favorite Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi (Uffizi)

“Winning the Emmy is a new boost to my project, which aims to restore and exhibit artworks by women in Florence,’ said Jane Fortune, art collector, philanthropist, as well as Founder and Chair of Advancing Women Artists Foundation. ‘To achieve these goals it takes technology and skill. It takes the commitment of the city’s museum directors, its restorers and its citizens in general, who are eager to finally learn more about these lesser-known works.” (See the website of Advancing Women Artists for an interesting recounting of the restoration of Artemisa Gentileschi’s David and Bathsheba.)

Restored Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi (David and Bathsheba)
Restored Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi (David and Bathsheba)

“Efforts to safeguard works of art are obviously directed to our cultural heritage in general. What I think we are doing on many fronts is dedicating supplementary attention to works of art by women, through initiatives like restoration and presentation to the public, placing an emphasis on the personalities of these women artists,” said Cristina Acidini, Superintendent of Florence’s Historic and Artistic Ethno-Anthropologic Patrimony and the Polo Museale.

Restoration funded by the Florence Committee of NMWA
Restoration funded by the Florence Committee of NMWA

Suor Plautilla Nelli, Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Siriani, Irene Duclos Parenti, Elizabeth Chaplin, Lavinia Fontana—the search for women artists in Florence spans hundreds of years and leads the art lover through the halls of the city’s museums, where a sprinkling of representative works gives incentive to further investigation. The whirlwind tourist knows nothing of them, while the art-loving resident lucky enough to happen upon an occasional exhibit aimed at unearthing the city’s hidden cultural patrimony may only vaguely remember their names.

The documentary Invisible Women will have its Italian premiere at Florence’s Odeon Cinema on Tuesday, June 25 at 7pm. Tickets cost 6 euro, with proceeds going to the Advancing Women Artists Foundation which restores and safeguards works of art by women. The Odeon Cinema is a partner in the event, evidence of its ongoing commitment to culture in the city of Florence and of its international nature.

For information on the evening visit the websites of The Florentine (www.theflorentine.net) and the Odeon Cinema (www.odeonfirenze.com). See the Facebook page.

For more information contact: Linda Falcone, Advancing Women Artists Foundation (linda.falcone7072@gmail.com)

Finding Art by Women in the Strangest Places

One of the most interesting, but least visited museums, in Florence is the Garibaldi Museum, maintained by the Associazione Nazionale Veterani e Reduci Garibaldini, in the 10th century tower, Torre della Castangna which stands in Piazza San Martino, on the corner of via Dante Alighieri. It has in its collection a portrait by one of Florence’s most talented artists, working at the dawn of the 20th century, Elisabeth Chaplin.

The Torre della Castagna is interesting in its own right, being one of the least altered medieval towers in Florence. In 1038, the tower was given by Emperor Corrado II to the Benedictine monks of the adjacent Badia Fiorentina in order to help with the monastery’s defenses. In 1282 the tower became the meeting place of the Priori delle Arti, the governing body of the Florentine Republic. The name of the tower came from the fact that the members of the Priori used chestnuts (castagne) to cast their votes.

Torre della Castagna home of the Garibaldi Museum
Torre della Castagna home of the Garibaldi Museum

Today, the tower houses a collection of artifacts having to do with Giuseppe Garibaldi, a central figure in the Italian Risorgimento, since he personally commanded and fought in many military campaigns that led eventually to the formation of a unified Italy.

Among the collection is a portrait of Anita Vignoli (née Castellucci) painted by Elisabeth Chaplin. Anita Castellucci, named by her father after Garibaldi’s beloved Brazilian wife Ana Ribeiro da Silva (commonly known as “Anita”), who fought with Garibaldi. Her Vignoli husband worked to carry on Garibaldi’s legacy into the 20th century. Anita Vignoli is wearing her father’s medals.

Portrait of Anita Castellucci Vignoli
Portrait of Anita Castellucci Vignoli

Elisabeth Caplin, born in France, came from a family of painters and sculptors. In 1900 her family moved to Italy, first to Piemonte and afterwards to Savona in Liguria. It was there that Elisabeth started to teach herself to paint, with no formal training and only the advice of Albert Besnard. When the Chaplin family took up residence at the Villa Rossi in Fiesole in 1905, Elisabeth had the chance to visit Francesco Gioli’s studio and meet Giovanni Fattori. (Her painting of Anita Castellucci Vignoli was painted sometime between 1906 and 1922.)

An almost Invisible Woman - Elisabeth Caplin in Torre della Castagna
An almost Invisible Woman – Elisabeth Chaplin in Torre della Castagna

Chaplin’s visits to the Uffizi Museum were decisive. She learned from copying the classics. From 1905-8, she painted her first large canvases and in 1910 her Ritratto di Famiglia (Family Portrait) for the Florence Society of Fine Arts won her a gold medal. In 1916 she moved with her family to Rome, where she would live until 1922.

Elisabeth Chaplin's self-portrait (Vasari Corridor)
Elisabeth Chaplin’s self-portrait (Vasari Corridor)

She participated in the Venice Biennale in 1914 and in the Paris Salon in 1922 and thereafter. In the 1930’s Chaplin produced numerous frescoes and murals. In 1937 she won a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Paris and in 1939 she was given the French Legion of Honor. She returned to Italy after World War II.

Chaplin donated her entire body of works to Florence. Fifteen of her paintings are on show at Palazzo Pitti’s Modern Art Gallery, while almost 700 (paintings and sketches) are in storage. Why are so many masterpieces by extraordinary women artists hidden from the public eye and from the enjoyment of visitors? See a small part of the story at the Odeon Cinema on June 25.

Open on Thursday afternoon
Open on Thursday afternoon

Mangia! Mangia! – 150 Years of Garibaldi Biscuits

Not only is 2011 the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy – it is also the 150th birthday of the Garibaldi Biscuit.

Giuseppe Garibaldi probably never ate a Garibaldi Biscuit (although there is one dubious story about dry bread smeared with a mixture of berries and horse blood consumed by his starving troops as they conquered the Kingdom of Two Sicilies to unify Italy).

It was after Garibaldi won worldwide fame as a military strategist that an understated British biscuit (redundant, I know) was given his name. This dry, barely sweet Victorian relic was wildly popular in 1861 when biscuit king John Carr invented it and it still has a faithful following today.

Garibaldi Biscuits aka Squashed Fly Biscuits
Garibaldi Biscuits aka Squashed Fly Biscuits

Despite the name, Italians are not among the aficionados who break off strip after strip of the parching crackers layered with the thinnest smear of crushed currants. Like Marmite, Garibaldi Biscuits are solely a English delicacy today. Maybe that has to do with the sobriquets – fly sandwiches, fly cemeteries, dead fly biscuits or squashed fly biscuits – the tasty treat has earned because of the appearance of the semi-dried currants.

Garibaldi made a celebrated visit to Tynemouth, England in 1854, but it wasn’t until his great victories in 1860, that he was deserving of an honorary cookie.

Garibaldi Biscuits by Artist Ralph Steadman
Garibaldi Biscuits by Artist Ralph Steadman

John Carr was one of the great biscuit-making Carr’s of Scotland (of water-biscuit fame), but he abandoned the family business to work for the Peek Frean in Bermondsey. John Carr’s first biscuit, the Pearl – a crumbly plain thing, probably similar to a tea biscuit, launched in 1860 – did not survive. (Neither did Peek Frean – the brand is owned by United Biscuit in the U.K. and Kraft Foods in the U.S.)

History does not relate how Carr came up with his magic formula: the dry, not too sweet dough, the shiny glazed top, the squashed currants and the clever device of leaving strips of five biscuits joined together, like perforated cardboard. A single Garibaldi section has only about 35 to 40 calories, but for fans it is hard to eat just one.

By 1878 did anyone send aging Garibaldi a tin of biscuits
Did anyone send aging Garibaldi a tin of biscuits?

In the U.S., the Sunshine Biscuit Company made a popular version of the Garibaldi Bisquit, bigger, if not better, with raisins, which it called “Golden Fruit”. Sunshine was bought out by the Keebler Company, which tried chocolate filling, of course, but, like Golden Fruit, that didn’t last. Today, Garibaldi Biscuits are marketed only in the U.K. as Crawfords Garibaldi Biscuits distributed by United Biscuits. Some British supermarket chains, such as Waitrose, also have their own branded Garibaldi Biscuit.

If you are in Florence, you may find Crawfords Garibaldi Biscuits at the Old England Store, Via de’ Vecchietti, 28r, for two euro per packet.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Italy’s 150th Anniversary, Garibaldi & Lincoln

Giuseppe Garibaldi resigned his commission of leader of the army of Unification (I Mille) on September 18, 1860 and retired to his home on the island of Caprera off the coast of Sardinia. He was 53  years old and recovering from a battle wound.

1860 Garibaldi fights for Italy's unity
1860 Garibaldi fights for Italy's unity

In 1861, at the outbreak of the American Civil War, Garibaldi was approached by a representative of the United States Government, reportedly on behalf of President Abraham Lincoln. The Union Army was in disarray and Lincoln was unhappy with those in command. He needed a proven military leader.

As Herbert Mitgang wrote in his fascinating and very detailed article in American Heritage Magazine (October 1975):

“The offer came at a moment in Garibaldi’s life when he lived in semi-exile—too little of a politician to scheme for personal advancement, too much of a national idol to be put behind bars on the Italian mainland. The hero of the movement for a unified Italy, he had led a spectacularly successful revolt against a reactionary regime in Sicily and in Naples—the so-called Two Sicilies—in 1860, but now he was in temporary retirement.

On lonely Caprera, a wild, rocky island covered with juniper and myrtle and stunted olive trees, below La Maddalena off the northeastern corner of Sardinia, Garibaldi tended his vines and figs, built stone walls to fence in his goats, and looked out to the sea, dreaming. The conqueror of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in gray trousers and slouch hat, his red shirt and poncho flapping in the wind, refused all titles and honors for himself and sought only lenience for his followers. “How men are treated like oranges—squeezed dry and then cast aside!” he said.

He had wanted to march on Rome, against the “myrmidons of Napoleon in,” supposedly there to protect the pope, and defeat the Bourbon troops. But Victor Emmanuel II, king of Sardinia and now of Sicily and Naples as well, decided that French help was needed to complete unification of Italy and called off Garibaldi’s advance. Going back to Caprera, Garibaldi leaned against the steamer rail and said to his legion of Red Shirts: “Addio—a Roma!”

Abraham Lincoln’s Offer

1866 Garibaldi leads Italy against Austria
1866 Garibaldi leads Italy against Austria

Through the letter, dated July 17, 1861,  from Secretary of State William H. Seward to H.S. Sanford, the U.S. Minister in Brussels, Garibaldi was offered a Major General’s commission in the U.S. Army.

On September 18, 1861, Sanford sent the following reply to Seward:

“He [Garibaldi] said that the only way in which he could render service, as he ardently desired to do, to the cause of the United States, was as Commander-in-chief of its forces, that he would only go as such, and with the additional contingent power – to be governed by events – of declaring the abolition of slavery; that he would be of little use without the first, and without the second it would appear like a civil war in which the world at large could have little interest or sympathy.”

In other words, according to Italian historian Petacco, “Garibaldi was ready to accept Lincoln’s offer but on one condition: that the war’s objective be declared as the abolition of slavery. But at that stage Lincoln was unwilling to make such a statement lest he worsen an agricultural crisis.”

Although President Lincoln did not have Garibaldi leading his troops, he did have Union soldiers trained by Garibaldi. The “Garibaldi Guard” was the nickname given to the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment that fought in the American Civil War. Many of the regiment’s members were Italian Americans who had served under Garibaldi in Italy.

Lincoln reviews the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment- the Garibaldi Guard
Lincoln reviews the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment- the Garibaldi Guard

Garibaldi never joined the Union Army, but he kept track of the American Civil War’s progress. In August 6, 1863, still unhappy with the political outcome of Italy’s Unification, he wrote directly to President Lincoln.

In the midst of your titanic struggle, permit me, as another among the free children of Columbus, to send you a word of greeting and admiration for the great work you have begun. Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure, You are a true heir of the teaching given us by Christ and by John Brown. If an entire race of human beings, subjugated into slavery by human egoism, has been restored to human dignity, to civilization and human love, this is by your doing and at the price of the most noble lives in America.

It is America, the same country which taught liberty to our forefathers, which now opens another solemn epoch of human progress. And while your tremendous courage astonishes the world, we are sadly reminded how this old Europe, which also can boast a great cause of liberty to fight for, has not found the mind or heart to equal you.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, Scritti politici e militari, ed. Domenico Ciàmpoli, Rome 1907

If Abraham Lincoln had been able to obtain the services of the brilliant Giuseppe Garibaldi, the American Civil War may have ended in short order. As it was, for his military expeditions in South America and Europe (Italy, Austria and France), Garibaldi is known as the “Hero of Two Worlds”.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Happy 150th Anniversary Italy!

Italy will spend 2011 celebrating the 150th anniversary of its unification – known as the Risorgimento (Resurgence). From a land of city-states, many under foreign domination, Italy became a country in 1861.

Most historians agree that the unification of Italy started in 1815 with the end of Napoleonic rule, but it took a tortuous path through the insurrections of the 1820s and 1830s and the abortive revolutions of 1848-1849. The War of 1859 created the Kingdom of Sardinia that encompassed most of northwestern and central Italy, including Tuscany. But the move to unify the peninsula stalled there. The rich north had had nothing to gain and little interest to take on the burden of the poor south or to confront the pope in the Papal States.

Garibaldi and his army of Red Shirts
Garibaldi and his army of Red Shirts

Giuseppe Garibaldi was the true hero who kick-started the final unification of Italy. In early 1860, he gathered about a thousand of volunteers (I Mille) in Genoa for an expedition by sea to Sicily.

Progress by December 1959
Progress of unification by December 1959

The Kingdom of Two Sicilies (yellow on map), which ruled over not only the island, but most of the southern third of the mainland, had long been a corrupt government, oppressing a restive underclass. Although the Garibaldi Red Shirts were less skilled and ill equipped, they had tremendous success, gathering thousands of volunteers as they moved through the countryside. They occupied Sicily within two months. Garibaldi claimed Sicily in the name of Victor Emanuel II, King of Piedmont, Sardinia and Savoy. He then crossed to the mainland and marched his troops to Naples.

After Garibaldi’s success made full unification of Italy a real possibility, Piedmontese troops, under the command of Victor Emanuel II, used the riots and uprisings in the Papal States (red on map) as a reason to move south under the pretext of maintaining order. In 1860, two thirds of the Papal States joined the Kingdom of Sardinia and Rome was left alone. The Piedmontese army bypassed Rome and the remaining Papal States and marched south to Naples to help Garibaldi’s troops defeat the remaining armies of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.

1861 Italy - Orange Unified - Red Papal State - Green Austrian Venetia
1861 Orange & Pink Unified - Red Papal State - Green Austrian Venetia

On September 18, 1860, Garibaldi gave up command of his army and all lands to the south, including Sicily and Naples, to Victor Emanuel II, signifying the unity and formation of the Kingdom of Italy, which was formalized by the new parliament on March 17, 1861. Victor Emanuel II was crowned the first King of Italy.

Although a Kingdom of Italy had been formed, it did not include all of Italy. The missing parts were Rome and Venetia. Venetia was annexed in 1866. Rome and the remaining Papal States became part of the union in 1870.

Throughout the year Tuscan Traveler will highlight events and stories relating to the unification of Italy.