Somewhere in Emilia-Romagna
I have pictures to remind me, but the memory of a few distinct sounds brings me right back to the damp, pervading coldness of a nondescript farm in an area that seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Dark, barren vines disappeared into the misty distance. The gray daylight seemed to have no source, time felt suspended, and the low-lying fog numbed all the senses.
But then we gathered around a wood fire with a copper cauldron fixed on top of it, and the crisp, staccato sizzling and popping of pork skins frying in oil and pork fat cut right through the cold, gray, flatness, and again, we were alive and present in the place.
Not far away, in a large garage, the remains of a freshly slaughtered pig had been divided into piles of meat: one lean and one stringy and fatty. The animal’s organs hung on hooks, slowly dripping their particular liquids onto the concrete. Angelo, a traditionally trained butcher, began the solemn, serious work of making salami.
In this austere setting, the traditional craft of preserving meat seemed to re-inhabit its context of scarcity and need, when the only choice was to preserve food or to starve during the winter. The piles of meat signified delayed reward: one had to do the work and then patiently wait for the salami to mature.
And in stark contrast, we feasted on the bright, immediate sounds of the sizzling cauldron and the pleasing, head-filling crunch of fried pork skins shattering in our mouths. Salami takes patience, but ciccioli are for consuming here and now. Recalling their sounds: sizzle, pop, and crunch, brings me right back to the experience and connects me to the smell and taste of the crunchy snacks.