Simone: brings the Calabrese passion to the New World
From Calabria, about this time of day, sunset, you can see the island of Sicily winking on the horizon. But you don’t confuse Sicilian ways with yours, “not if you’re a Calabrese,” says Simone. Simone is a Calabrese.
“At this time of year, we each have our traditions,” he says. “And what we’re all doing is...this.” And he imitates slitting the throat of a pig, then pulling back as the blood squirts, then plunging both hands to collect the blood, gather the intestines, clean out the gut.
“It is the period now, from late December to late January. Because of the weather, Calabrians need to put the meat to season now, especially with the humidity and everything. They make the salami now, because it’s got to be ready in three months. Three months hanging in the cantina — cellar. You don’t need the new salami until April.”
We’re talking as we wait to pick up take-outs from Nado Republic.
“It’s a pretty ancient procedure,” says Simone. “When they slit the pig’s throat it can be a rite of passage for a kid. Like me, for instance, when I became a little bit adult, when you are ready, it is an honor for your family to let you give the knife.”
“In the heart?”
“No, in the throat. Because you need that. The women collect the hot blood and the same night they make the puddings. The salty pudding, and the chocolate pudding. And then you need to empty all the intestines, and then you wash the interior and shave the skin smooth. This night, everybody works.”
Simone recently arrived in San Diego from Calabria, down there at the heel of Italy. He’s part of the crew that runs the gelato and Italian dining place.
Right now, he’s missing part of the month’s celebrations back in Calabria. “Nothing is wasted from the pig,” he goes on, “so, recipes go back centuries,” and the red wine to go with them too. “Even the kid who pours the wine: That honor goes to the youngest of the family that is allowed to drink. Why? Because you don’t want your uncle or your dad pouring your wine for you. You should be doing the pouring for them. There are a lot of measures of respect in Calabria. They all came from traditions, especially after the Second World War. Back then, nobody had anything. Except every village kept its traditions, and still does. Because we were always separated from each other, mainly by dialect. Like, from Rome to the south, the domination was Spanish. So we understand each other in dialect, but we don’t know the others’ words.”
Not only that, but, from local prosciutto to vino, tastes differ village by village.
“My family makes spicy sausage. Another village is famous for its prosciutto, except they’re further ‘round the mountain. Now, the irony is, in a small village in Italy in Calabria, you can find people taking their pigs to the matanza, the pig slaughter. It’s done the traditional way, and truly nothing is wasted. The only thing you don’t find: the people! They’ve all gone to America.”