"I'll tell you about my life as a shepherd" – Italian Cuisine

Born in the countryside and raised surrounded by animals, this Apulian girl, nicknamed "the shepherdess of the Murge", has never wanted to do anything other than what she does. Story of a normal woman who does a special job (and has never felt discriminated against)

"I came back from the pasture a little while ago, now I can talk."

It doesn't often happen that an interview starts like this, and neither does a normal phone call. This is why the story of Mariantonietta Scalera it is special. 31 years old, Apulian from Altamura, daughter of breeders and dairy producers, by profession she does exactly what you have just read: shepherdess.

"Pastora", but are we sure what can be said?
"The word is there in the dictionary, I checked! Even if it is not used much because there are obviously more men ”.

One is very fascinated by a young shepherd woman.
I understand, even if it's normal for me: I've always done this, and it's nothing new for me. "

Your father is also a breeder, have you ever wanted to do anything else?
«I was born in the countryside and I lived surrounded by animals: for me this was not a" choice ", but a natural evolution. Since I was a child I have helped my father in the stables, first as a game, then as a job .

Is it a unique case in Italy or "only" rare?
«The documentary In this world by Anna Kauber (2018) told the story of a hundred women who in Italy are dedicated to pastoralism, so I would say that we are rare. But there we are. Each story is different: for example, I don't do transhumance, while there are people who move for months sleeping in shelters and caravans ".

What are the pros and cons of a shepherd's life?
"The most beautiful aspect is the relationship with the territory, nature and people, but if there were a little more money it wouldn't hurt."

And those of life from shepherdess?
"I have never seen the difference" of gender "or suffered. At the Agricultural Institute where I graduated I have always been respected, even though I was the only girl in a class of thirty boys. Men appreciate what I do .

In the collective imagination, shepherds are gruff hermits, like Heidi's grandfather.
«Of course I don't have all Saturdays and Sundays free, but I always find the way to be in society. I have many friends, if I want to go out in the evening I'm free. And there are friends who come to pasture with me … It is not a problem to open up to the world. But it is also not a problem to be able to detach yourself from everything and immerse yourself completely in nature .

Describe your typical day.
"It changes a lot during the year, but in general the morning is dedicated to milking and then grazing. And in the afternoon to check the animals and, again, to the milking .

Nothing has changed even during the pandemic.
«Nothing, everything the same: the cycles of nature and animals are always the same. What has failed, if anything, is the direct relationship with the people: before, many more people used to go to the dairy, and there were the travelers of the Materan Way who stopped by us for a break ".

I read that last year she went to work in the Netherlands.
"I felt the need to change scenery for a while. Not because what I do does not satisfy me, but because since I was born I have always been here, surrounded by my family. So I participated in a youth exchange / work program: I had to stay two months, I stayed there for a year. I worked on the farm of a family who welcomed me as their daughter, although I didn't speak a word of Dutch, but only a little English ".

He must have taken them by the throat.
«Oh yes, while I was with them I cooked everything: parmigiana, handmade cavatelli, tiramisu. And then the pizza: seeing the dough rise for them was a real magic .

Was working on a Dutch farm very different from working on a masseria in Puglia?
«On the one hand, yes, because the territory is different and the animals are different. But there is something similar everywhere in those who do this work: great hospitality and the desire to tell their products and the history of their territory ".

Where will you be in ten years?
"Always here, among my cows and my sheep."

And in five minutes?
"To feed the little lambs!"

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