Vinegar, Tripes & “Madonna” Faith!

I have born in Genoa. My town was one of the four “Repubbliche Marinare” the Captain’s Towns of Genova, Venezia, Pisa, Amalfi : they ruled the Mediterranean sea and Europe, North Africa, West Asia until the discover of the West Indies: America. Genoa has always been the biggest port of Mediterranean sea until today. A hundreds of years ago the Ship’s cargo was disembarked by strong men, named the “Camalli”. Their duty was to get the “jute” bags or barrels or wooden boxes containing goods with their bare hands, to put these heavy stuffs on their shoulders and to transport to the wagons, pulled by horses, then go back and forward until the Ship was emptied. One of this “jute” bag containing 220 pounds (100 kilos) of charcoal is still in one of the votive urn at “Sanctuary Di Nostra Signora Della Guardia” a shrine at 800 meters of altitude on the “Figogna” mountain in Genoa. This was a votive gesture carried out by a man so poor that the charcoal bag was the only thing he could offer to our “Madonna” (“Virgin Maria” the mother of Jesus Christ) for her “grazia”: after he recovered from a dangerous illness. This strong man able to transport on his shoulder that bag, walking barefoot since the beginning of the “Madonna of Guardia Cathedral”, was my grandfather “Pierino” Pietro Dormino. My grandfather did that votive act to thank “Virgin Maria” for her sacred intervention on his case. In our “Genoa” dialect “Camallare” means “to transport heavy stuff on the shoulders”. When I asked to my grandfather how come that “Camalli” were so strong, he answered in our dialect:”ghen due couse che fanh ciu forte l’ommu: l’asciou e u broddu de trippa” translated it becomes: “there are two things which make the man stronger: the Vinegar and the broth of Tripe”. Just to let you know when I borne my Granfather drown me into a bath with Vinegar! Alike a biblical baptism; only in to the vinegar! This is our old tradition: as they born I did the same with my son and daughter too. What about Tripe? On old times the good cuts of meat were for rich people only. Tripe was the only cheap meat that poor people could buy. Different kinds of preparations were experimented and so many recipes for tripe were born. Usually fishermen, workmen and “Camalli” fed themselves and their families with tripe. Another peculiarity: the “Tripe Broth”, just boil the tripe along with few veggies in fresh water , add a small bunch of good marine salt: until few decades ago the broth was separated from the ingredients (the tripe and the vegetables to be the family soup) and consumed during the working hours…still I remember when I was going to recover the fish-net with my uncle “Pippa” (a fisherman) we never miss to wire a bottle of Tripe Broth to the boat to maintain it cold in the sea water… beautiful simple life… Tripe is part of the stomach of the ruminant, especially Cow stomach, cleaned and washed and pre-cooked is available in many markets worldwide. _Maurizio Russo.

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