A couple of weeks ago I was messaging with Angela, one of my best friends who now lives in Spain, and when I sent her a picture of what I was having for breakfast, she replied 'OMG...Krumiri cookies, Nico, you can't do this to me, they are one of my favourite things and it is practically impossible to find them where I am!'. She had made me smile. I too love krumiri, in fact I make them rarely otherwise Vito and I would eat them all in a day, or better, all after dinner, while sitting on the couch watching a program. The sort of thing adults are not really meant to do (although... isn't it great?!).
Krumiri are a traditional Piedmontese recipe, precisely from Casale di Monferrato. They were invented in 1878 by the pastry chef Domenico Rossi and the shape recalls the moustache of the first king of united Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II. The name derives from the word Crumiro, which refers to a worker that does not take part in a strike, and in turn the word Crumiro derives from the Tunisian tribe of Khumir, which in 1881 provided France with the excuse to invade Tunisia...
Unfortunately right now, I can't go anywhere outside of Venice (these are the days of #iorestoacasa and #andràtuttobene), so I'm matching the pics of the cookies with some old pics taken in Torcello, mainly because they share a similar light and a bucolic atmosphere.
When I made them the lockdown hadn't started yet and I was about to go to Verona for work. I remember well not only because it was my last trip outside Venice before this surreal situation, but also because I had taken with me to read on the train Massimo Carlotto's latest book, La Signora del Martedì (which hasn't been translated yet). To tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed. The plot reads well up to a point, after which there are -for my taste- too many unnecessary digressions. A pity because I used to love Carlotto as an author, especially his first books, which give a good idea of the story of the Brenta Mob (Mafia del Brenta) through a very cool protagonist nicknamed The Alligator, a sort of private detective called Marco Buratti. I enjoyed those books (Bandit Love is my favourite) with a harsh and not exactly refined language because I could recognise places and stories, while when he started changing settings... I lost my passion...
Anyway, going back to us, right now I would be happy enough to visit Torcello myself... Not that we are locked at home all day, but... almost! Let me tell you that this Corona virus is a real pain in the neck, I'm so sick of it and of all the effects it's causing. I receive lots of messages and comments with people asking me how things are in Italy, as if the problem was only here. I don't know what to say because I don't want to scare people, but I am realising that it is everywhere and that the sooner proper precautions will be taken, the sooner this nightmare will end. Even here it took us some time to understand how drastic this pandemic is (not from the deaths point of view, thank goodness, but from the speed and easiness with which it spreads, most people recover!!! Please keep this in mind, no need for extra and useless stress)...
Differently from China, we live in democratic (or so assumed) countries based on a capitalistic system, therefore it is not easy to shut your business and stop working. No one provides you with a salary and takes care of your essential needs, so it's becoming a huge problem. All my photo shoots have been postponed, so there's no money coming in this month, and Vito too has halved the amount of hours he does. He was also meant to work in the production of the movie Mission Impossible... but it has been delayed to who knows when. Many acquaintances of mine have a shop or a restaurant, and for them it's even worse, with staff, bills, rents and suppliers to pay...
Until yesterday everybody was telling me that they were watching Italy, but reality is that Italy was watching them too, quite flabbergasted btw. From the French protest with people dressed as Smurfs to the Liverpool match with thousands of spectators, we just couldn't understand how other countries could think that this horrific virus was circumscribed to Italy. Not to mention the idiotic words pronounced by American President Donald Trump, worried more about the elections than of his citizens (think people, think... do you really want a president like him?!).
I am not happy about all this at all, it would be so much easier if the problem was located only in one area, but we live in a globalised world and unfortunately these are the consequences. I've read quite a few articles on all the issues implied, from human rights to economics, and I feel confused. From the one hand the Wuhan method seems to have worked in China, but from the other people were totally controlled, with no freedom at all. It is not possible to replicate the same method in the Western world, although if we think of it we too are controlled, just not by the state but by Google and Facebook & co...
Here in Italy, for example, it is not forbidden to go out, of course. People are invited to be sensible and behave consequently. But all activities must close at 6 pm (something like a curfew), people must not leave their province and when we go for a walk we have to maintain the safety distance. After an initial rejection, most of us Italians are responding to the government's indications, but there are some categories that still risk being contaminated and enlarging the contamination everyday. Yesterday I saw a picture of the workers of the shipyard Fincantieri, based in Marghera, in crowds one next to the other, waiting for the bus to go home... When I saw them, I felt stupid and spoilt. I complain because it's boring to be home all day and I miss my long walks around Venice and especially along the Lido shore, while these people have no choice and have to face risks for a ridiculous salary, to build stupid ships for stupid holidays...
Industry, capital, multinational interests are prior to everything. This whole situation makes me want to read Karl Marx's Das Capital... and I won't deny it makes me sick. The only positive aspect is that global climate is benefitting from less travel and less consumption. But with shops and schools closed, online businesses like Amazon are making a fortune. Jeff Bezoz is about to realise his dream of creating the one-stop-shop, while Zuckerberg's platform are becoming the only place were people interact. I am scared that if this situation lasts long, people will get used to doing everything online and important categories like Education, or the Publishing industry -just to mention a few- will never be able to recover. Or maybe (and this is my hope), we will all realise how essential it is to change direction, that we must worship Mother Earth and be respectful of her and of all other beings, that we can all give up something for the good of the everybody. We are all tied to each other, we all need one another, and together we can if we just want to.
Right now, though, it's like if we were living in a Philip K. Dick's novel...
With this said, there is not much more for me to do than share today's recipe, and wonder if androids dream of Kumiri cookies too...
Will be back soon, hopefully with some positive news.
Don't forget that andrà tutto bene.
RECIPE: PIEDMONTESE KRUMIRI COOKIES WITH DARK CHOCOLATE
For 30 cookies
350 gr 0 flour
100 gr softened butter
100 gr icing sugar
1 tea spoon honey
1 free range egg + 2 yolks
1 tea spoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
50 gr dark chocolate (optional)
10 ml milk
1. In a bowl, work together softened butter, icing sugar, honey and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, add them to the mixture and amalgamate well.
3. Now add the previously sifted flour and baking powder and combine. Cover the bowl and let sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
4. (optional) Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a water bath. When almost completely melted add the milk and whisk until nice and smooth. Keep aside.
5. When the time has passed, pre-heat oven at 170°. Grease a sheet of parchment paper, fill a piping bag (with an open star tip) with the dough and pipe the dough into moustache shaped cookies.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes. When ready let cool and dip bottom part and a 1/3 of the top into the melted chocolate. Wait for the chocolate to harden and serve!