La Bigolada 2009

Butta la pasta! Which essentially, means “throw the pasta into the water”. Eight HUNDRED kilos of pasta (1760 pounds) and god-knows-how-many tins of anchovies and tuna. I’ll tell you all about it in a minute, but first, let’s step into the Rubber Slippers time machine and go back to the year of 1848.

Castel d’Ario, March 8, 1848. The Society of Carnevale was designated the voice for the lower ranked populace such as tenants, artisans and traders, and declared that on Ash Wednesday there would be a “free public distribution of polenta, herring and wine to all of the people.” The event was an effort to alleviate social tensions harbored between the lower classes and those in power (i.e. land barons). Good times for everybody, until the Church got wind of it.
Polenta and herring (and much later bigoli and sardines) could hardly be considered rich and indulgent fare, but the festive occasion was perceived as an affront to the Catholic Church being that Ash Wednesday was the official beginning of Lent. In 1970 the Church granted a special exemption to the town, and while men in robes and tensions of long ago may no longer be of any concern, this unique tradition of Castel d’Ario lives on in what is now La Bigolada of today.
– Compiled from bits and pieces of info on the net.

If you haven’t already guessed, the term bigolada owes its name to the bigoli pasta that is cooked for this enormous congregation of people. It is always held on Ash Wednesday in the town of Castel d’Ario (province of Mantova). We didn’t take the numbers on the web seriously and were shocked to see so many present. Judging from the generous amounts that were being dished out, I can see why a lot of people stood patiently in line, and at a mere 3 euros a bowl, why not? Maybe next year we’ll get there way ahead of time. Recipe for my version of Bigoli with onions, anchovies and tuna in a future post.

Furnaces at La Bigolada
We counted 9 of these wood-fired furnaces.

The bigoli is done
Checking to see if it’s al dente…

Here mama, just for you...
Three euros got you a bowl of bigoli like this.

Frying up the fritters
After pasta comes dessert.


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