Dear Grandma Mira,
it's been almost 7 years since you passed away and my only consolation is to imagine that every day you are cooking delicious dishes for my dad. I imagine you like this: you are tearing the last passatelli while dad 'steals' yet another slice of tongue 'to taste if it is cooked'. Since Francesco, whom you have unfortunately never met but would have loved to, has never eaten them, I have decided to prepare them for him tonight. I think of you. I think of our Sunday mornings, so wonderful and yet so distant, which we took for granted in those days. You and Grandpa often told me about the Second World War, you were just a child when Grandpa was a prisoner of the Germans in Austria. Today I am the one telling you that World War III has begun, there are no states against other states, there are no neutrals or nations that have decided not to go to war: we are all in the field against an invisible enemy called Covid-19.

 

Yesterday's war, today's war

Dear Grandma, this war of today differs from the one you experienced because we are spoilt by contemporary luxuries and we stay indoors, warm, on a comfortable sofa, with the internet, TV, smartphones... and we have far too much to eat to pass the time. They even bring us groceries at home, but some people complain and go out 10 times a day to do their shopping 'in instalments'. The social networks are invaded by misfits who, on reading the posts, feel like war heroes, veterans of who knows what sacrifice, then you discover that they live from Rome downwards, where the Covid-19 practically does not exist. If I still lived in Ravenna today I would feel calm, instead I live in the watershed between Brescia and Bergamo, Lake Iseo, in the epicentre of Covid-19.  

Covid-19: I see dead people thanks to a proliferation of last-minute virologists

Dear Grandma, the good news is that the whole of Italy is being led by an exceptional Prime Minister: Giuseppe Conte. Even though he was brought up by the 5 stars who are not even close to my political thinking, I admire our PM so much. Not only has he not abdicated or exploited the moment to make propaganda, but he is even showing courage, pulse and foresight by making unpopular choices for the good of us Italians. I am sure that the whole world envies him, starting with the English moron who condemns thousands of people to death relying on a supposed herd immunity, or the American phenomenon that says that the cure cannot be the disease, but meanwhile the USA has overtaken Italy and China for contagions in less than 15 days. 

Covid-19: I apologise in advance for this provocation. Ah, no, it is not a provocation, I mean it.

Dear Grandma, I believe that on the one hand, Covid-19 was absolutely necessary. The richest and most productive slice of the world really needed to stop and find time to reflect. I know, probably for those who post a selfie every day on Instagram with half a torso out the window and a victim's face there is nothing to be done, but the Coronavirus will probably take it in the name of natural selection. For all those who will take advantage of this quarantine to reflect on their lives and will be able to re-embrace those values hidden by futile layers of flab, commitments and consumption, there will be hope for them. Wealth has made us blind, but this connected world has given us the ability to take photos that can reach anywhere in real time, provided the algorithm - the true deity of this millennium - deems them worthy. Of course, even in our rich world there are still some who choose to live disconnected from reality and ignore social networks, news sites, newspapers and the news in the name of self-proclaimed superiority. These are dangerous individuals, but fortunately rare. Information today can run everywhere and this freedom to circulate is the key to progress

Dear grandmother, this is an image that you only expect to see in war and that neither our generation nor your daughter's generation, my mother, has ever seen before. We are in the centre of Bergamo: 70 military trucks are carrying away the coffins of corpses caused by the Coronavirus. These trucks, queued up in Via Borgo Palazzo, are transporting the coffins from the Bergamo cemetery to the crematorium ovens in Emilia-Romagna because there's no more room here and the crematorium - in operation 24 hours a day - can't cope. So much for seasonal flu and rampant imbecility.

We challenged Nature, how would Turner paint us today?

Dear Grandma, pandemics circulated even in the days of curtailing economies, just think of the plague that plagued mankind in alternating periods over the centuries. What if we have simply become a world too old? What if Covid-19 is not so much needed to give us a sense of life, as to cut off the older people that medical advances are causing to live beyond their time by mocking nature itself? Covid-19 has existed in mammals for dozens of years, it is proven. Yet it has mutated on this very day and is capable of killing humans. Could nature have triggered this virus leap to demand a bill from us? I remember a beautiful documentary on telomeres that Fabrizio showed me. Do you know what telomeres are? Imagine our DNA as made up of the strings of a shoe, you know the two plastic ends that make sure the ribbon of cloth doesn't fray? There, that's the telomere, its job is to make sure that the DNA is copied, from one cell to another, correctly and completely. The length of our telomeres is directly proportional to our age. When the telomere becomes too short to protect the copied DNA, it sends a message to our body: goodbye and thank you, it's time to die. Today, there are studies to ensure that telomerase, the protein (I think it is a protein, but I don't want to misremember) preserves our telomeres for as many years as possible so as to improve the quality of life of the elderly. 

Dear Grandma, I put up the shelves this afternoon - do you like them? I know, you too were 79 when you died of the same disease as my dad, much younger than you. Forgive me if I find these studies to be yet another selfish project of this rich part of the world, which, despite being a reduced %, robs itself of almost all resources. Do we really want to study how to get an 80+ year old to climb Everest when most children in Africa do not reach 5 years of age? Are we really so blind? What if nature with the Coronavirus is asking us to rejuvenate the world? I don't do politics, I don't have to be voted in by anyone... so I can write exactly what I think. If there are 7 billion of us human beings on the planet, hoping there will always be new births, we cannot want quality life to go on any longer, unless we really do colonise other planets. But are we sure that this colonisation is right? Or is it fairer to cycle life according to nature and invest in it for almost all human beings?

Passatelli di Romagna: my grandmother Diomira's original recipe

Dear Grandma, I'll say goodbye now: it's been an hour since I put the passatelli pasta in the fridge. Ah, I faithfully used your recipe... I'm sure it would make you happy to know that I made it available to everyone here on the blog: you were so generous! Don't tell Grandpa I've run out ofDried Albana di Romagna to go with it... Grandma, forgive me for comparing Covid-19 to the war: there are no bombed-out houses and enemy soldiers shooting at us on sight here, just poor cretins who complain if they risk a fine because they're not well enough at home with every good thing. However if you think about it, it is consistent with our times, so yes, in our own way we really are at war.

Ingredients for 2 sweethearts:

  • 100 g breadcrumbs
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • 20 g of Pecorino Romano (because it tastes better that way, you told me while I was grating it)
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 yolk
  • 20g ox marrow
  • nutmeg in semi-industrial quantities (they say it is toxic, but we Romagna people are accomplices of the French paradox as far as that is concerned).

Procedure:

  1. Beat the eggs and yolk with a whisk, then grate in the nutmeg and mix for a few more seconds.
  2. Add all the cheese.
  3. Tear the marrow with a whisk and incorporate it into the cheese and egg mixture.
  4. One spoonful at a time add the breadcrumbs. You need it all, I recommend you add it slowly just to get a better workability of the dough... but if you have a kneading machine at home you can also put it all together and knead until you get an even dough ball.
  5. Let it rest in the fridge for an hour or so, then take out the dough and wait a few minutes until it is well workable. Take out the passatelli with the special passatelli iron you can buy on Amazon.
  6. Cook in boiling broth 1 minute from when they come to the surface, strictly made with beef tongue. Since Francesco and I love it, I used the salted one which is tastier. In Romagna, however, they don't use it... I made the broth with 1 potato, 1 rind of malga cheese, 1 beef femur (from which I extracted the marrow), and the tongue... not having any vegetables at home (carrot, onion, tomato, and celery) because they will be delivered tomorrow, I also used 1 teaspoon of granulated vegetable stock.
Who can guess what wine I paired with it?
Cheers
Chiara

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