Crogetti di Carnevale: a recipe and a reflection

by Laura Gray on February 19, 2011

500 gr. flour, 5 spoonfuls olive oil, 5 spoonfuls dry vinsanto, 5 eggs, 5 spoonfuls sugar,  the zest of an orange. Mix ingredients together and roll as thin as possible. If you have a pasta machine use it to get sheets of thin dough. Cut into strips and rectangles. Deep fry in vegetable oil. Serve drizzled with runny honey or sprinkled with fine sugar.

Crogetti exist all over Italy and are a typical treat in the build-up to Carnival. This recipe comes courtesy of Nonna Marisa who lives on he Siena slopes of Montalcino. All of 8 km away, on the Grosseto side of the Montalcino in the beautiful hamlet of S.Angelo in Colle crogetti are made with the juice of an orange and a teaspoonful of baking powder and without the oil or vinsanto in the above recipe….

 In Tuscany they are also called cenci (rags), bugie (lies) and chiacchere (chat/gossip) but every area of Italy gives them a different name and a slight recipe variant. They can be knotted or tied in a bow, splashed with red liqueur or dipped in chocolate. Right now grandmothers all over the country are making them, rolling and frying away like maniacs. You can buy them at the bakers but you will never see them at any other time of year. The ingredients are available all year round but this is a seasonal recipe. Throughout the year there are lots of dolci that are associated and available in only one period  or even on only on one specific day; for example Pan dei Santi can only be found in the month of November or Le Fritelle di San Giuseppe are only made on the San Giuseppe saint’s day, 19 March.

 This year’s advert campaign for the television licensing fee features perplexed exchanges between people speaking mutually incomprehensible dialects (all Italian) and nods at the role state television has had in spreading the use of the Italian language in Italy. This ties in with the celebrations planned on 17 March for 150 years of unified Italy. Before March 1861 there was no such thing as Italy, just a a diverse collection of city states and only 2.5% of Italy’s population could speak Italian…

 Sadly but predictably the celebrations themselves have provoked polemic and political division; the autonomous province of Bolzano does not want to participate and parliament is divided between politicians who think that this anniversary should be a national holiday and those that believe it should be celebrated in the workplace in this time of crisis. Right now, for various reasons, the unity of Italy can seem a shaky construct. The hundreds of variations on the theme of crogetti are to me emblematic of the richness of this amazing country.

Who would have thought a simple fried pastry strip could be so heavy with significance?

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