Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian
Once upon a time, the taste of “merenda” (the afternoon snack), was made of bread with sugar and wine and with hand-sliced prosciutto. A sandwich with butter and anchovies was also an option.
During the summer, 2 slices of bread with tomatoes rubbed into it was a choice. “Fettunta’ (garlic bread) was also delicious during the “new olive oil” season. The oil had a nice kick to it.
The only thing that changed was the “companatico”, that which was always added to 2 thin slices of unsalted bread.
The panino was wrapped in a cotton napkin, useful for wiping both hands and mouth. Delicious! When it was nice outside, we spent our afternoons in the meadow running after a soccer ball or on a broken down bicycle with the seat raised high.
It was difﬁcult to go up and down the hills or along the river with a ﬁshing rod. I was pretty much a loner when I was a child and used to go out with a friend, a surly lad with whom I spent most of my time. I was never very hungry which didn’t please my grandmother who would have kept me fed constantly and never let me skip afternoon snack.
She would run after me up and down the hills towards the river, interrupting our soccer game to bring me “merenda” every day… at 4 PM on the dot.
Together with the snack, she brought a soapy sponge to clean my knees, discolored by falls or climbs. I was clumsy with long, spindly legs and tripped everywhere.
That merenda was made for me but desired and eaten in a few bites by my friend.
I happily gave it to him, making sure my nonna wouldn’t see. Grandma’s “merenda”, the pause that slowed down our games, trained us to expect the affectionate gesture everyday; the type of love that you miss only when it isn’t there any more.
The rite made us more trustful and open to others notwithstanding our quiet dispositions which made us close since we were young. Now we are grown, each with our own life. I am often away from home for work.
He teaches. The “merenda” of our adult life has become the before dinner aperitif, a chat accompanied by food and wine. It is the same habit, dressed-up for grownup.
In Tuscany, the “merenda’ is still in style, a ritual that looks to the past…unsalted bread, closeness and being carefree.
We meet among friends. We often sit down to better enjoy a chat, with a glass of wine, tasty platters of cold cuts, cheese and bruschetta, fancy sandwiches and focaccia.
The “merenda” becomes dinner. The beauty of our land is part of the experience, especially during an aperitif enjoyed outside in good weather.
As we were when we were little when we shared a sandwich before returning to play, the merenda for adults is still essentially an occasion for leaving behind problems at work, for running a bit less. Now, tired of our daily routine, we can relax among the friends who really mean something to us.
Francesco Sorelli – My Tales of Tuscany