The legume and wheat soup: the recipe that identifies the community of Matera and the peasant civilization
One cannot understand what is the crapiata if you don't understand what the Borgo La Martella from Matera and i Stones. If, among the many specialties of Matera gastronomy, it is this simple one legume soup to have opened the celebrations of Matera European Capital of Culture, there must be a very profound reason, linked to the very intimate nature of those stone architectures that defined the space and then the time.
La crapiata and Borgo La Martella
The time of the past in Matera, as well as in the whole of Basilicata, was marked by the cyclical nature of nature and its crops. The crapiata was the reward meal: when the agricultural year ended with the last harvest and its fruits could be tasted. The crapiata was the gift of collective effort: when all the farmers gathered to "eat together" and celebrate. The crapiata was the result of everyone and not of the individual: all the women of Matera carried a handful of what was left of the previous harvest. Each handful offered wheat, chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas, broad beans … offered what they lived on for the whole year. And people lived for little, but that little was shared: because the earth needs everyone, not the individual.
In the middle of the last century, between 1951 and 1954, Borgo La Martella rose from the Matera landscape, destined to host all the displaced from the Sassi, the same considered the "shame of Italy" after the denunciation of the Christ stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. The "question" Sassi and Matera became the symbol of southernism and the great dream to achieve a true united Italy. The vision was that of the best minds of the time and was embodied in a new architecture, born from the characteristics of the territory to give shape to the culture of those who lived there. At the head of this army of great revolutionaries was Adriano Olivetti and his concept of "Community City: Matera like Ivrea, the South within the Italian Community". The Neorealism of architects such as Ludovico Quaroni, Federico Gorio, Pier Maria Lugli, Michele Valori and Luigi Agati designed the space to welcome the community. La Martella: historical emblem of the peasant village. Parameters and rules: environment, landscape, territory, local culture. The Borgo arose from the orography of the place and was then laid down on the territory, following its signs and shapes. They recreated two fundamental elements of the structure of the Sassi: the atmosphere of the "internal courtyard" and the "neighborhood", set on the curves of the agricultural territory of Matera. Objective: harmonious continuity between the new and the old landscape. Even on a tactile and visual level, the traditions and colors of the Sassi were recalled thanks to the use of native materials such as tuff and pieces of baked clay. The houses were planned with the presence of a small vegetable garden, a well and even a stable to give continuity to the time that had always been in that place. Even the Teatro del Borgo had a structure to carry out the aggregative function, which had to be even stronger there: it had no chairs or armchairs, each one had to bring his own chair from home and bring it to his companion.
The meaning and the dream of the Borgo's architecture still survive today in the name and in the crapiata. The Tuesday (La Mortella) is the name of a spontaneous Mediterranean aromatic: myrtle which, even today, is used for the preparation of olives in brine. The soup is the flavor that the displaced people of the Sassi have recreated all together, grain by grain like brick by brick, to “architect” in a new time what it always was.
Remember and recreate communities with crapiata
In the mid-70s, when all dreams were shattered and every reconstruction showed its dark side, Borgo La Martella also went into crisis. A community crisis: the elderly peasants who had lived in the Sassi died without being able to pass the baton, also thanks to the eternal scourge of emigration. Individualism began to disintegrate the community just as capitalism began to eradicate old peasant values. Paladin Raffaele, the factotum of the Borgo at the time, always very attentive to places and to his own people, began to recreate aggregation around the crapiata, the ancient soup common heritage of all his fellow citizens. He surrounded himself with friends and farmers to rediscover and pass on the ancient "community recipe", the one that gave only a pinch of salt to the "fists" of the laborers.
Fundamental thing: the legumes must necessarily be dry, because they are residues from the previous year. It is with the seed of the past that the harvest of the future is nourished.
Thus was born the Festival of Crapiata which, still today for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Borgo, makes the community pass from one century to another: "For our Borgo, the crapiata was and is a moment of great aggregation", confirms Paolo Grieco, president of Amici del Borgo association. «August 1st is an unmissable event not only for us who are here, but also for all the Martellese who have gone away.
The recipe for crapiata
The recipe for crapiata is so ancient that even the name today does not have a univocal interpretation. For some it would derive from the Greek krambe, which indicates a legume. For others it would come from nearby Calabria, where crapia it would be the old tripod on which the large pot was placed to cook the collective soup. And, again, it could derive from crapa for on the Sunday following the feast he killed himself and ate a goat. Whatever its true origin, for the people of Martello and Matera, crapiata is a "set of dried legumes", a mixture of different elements in which the diversity of each contributes to the richness of taste of the whole soup.
The original recipe would like only salt, oil and some new potato chips for the crapiata, or rather only what you possessed when you had to bring your "fist" to the community; other flavors and fresh ingredients were only added later. Even the doses retain the mystery of tradition: they are always excessive because they are designed to feed all the farmers who participated in the harvest, not a single family or a few friends. Today, for our homes, we could use a reprocessed dosage and ingredients as follows.
Ingredients for 6 people
100 g of broad beans not peeled
100 g of spelled
100 g of chickpeas
100 g of cicerchie
100 g of peas
100 g of white beans
100 g of black eyed beans
200 g of small lentils
200 g of durum wheat
6 small new potatoes
1 stick of celery
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
2 bay leaves
4 cherry tomatoes
Water to taste
Salt to taste
The day before, soak all the dried legumes in plenty of water. After 24 hours, drain and rinse them. Clean the new potatoes well, leaving the skin behind. Put all the legumes and new potatoes in a saucepan and cover the whole thing with water about a couple of centimeters. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and a little salt (put the celery, carrots and onion whole while chopping the cherry tomatoes).
Cook for another 45 minutes or so.
When cooked, remove the celery, carrots and onion, add a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil, a little chilli powder (according to your taste) and toasted bread. Serve hot, accompanied by a good red wine, preferably a Matera Doc.
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