Holly Grabow has been charming me for years with her delightful Puglia Stories mostly centered around the ordinary life of her wonderful in-laws.
About Holly Grabow
Holly moved to Italy as a young woman and has been living here for almost 3 decades. She started off her Italian life in Gioia del Colle in Puglia but she and her husband have lived in a town just south of Rome for many years. Holly has three children and a multitude of interests. Holly is the on the ground tour assistant for Bella Giornata Tours.
As is typical in Puglia Holly‘s in-laws, although now in their late 80s, spent their days involved in the Puglia region’s typical agricultural activities. This is the cistern, or well, on their property.
Puglia Winemaking Stories
Holly‘s father-in-law Cosimo has a piece of land that was dedicated to growing vines and wine making; I’ve had the pleasure of tasting his wine and it’s positively wonderful! Initially he bottled his wine in just about any extra bottle he had on hand, and later on he purchased corking equipment and wine bottles so that his wine had a better presentation. On one trip to the United States Holly purchased some wine labels that Cosimo used for awhile and then later on he had his own labels made with the family name. He named his wine Vino di Fanello after the piece of land where the vines were grown. Winemaking is tiring and due to his advanced age Cosimo no longer makes his own wine and instead prefers to buy homemade wine from his neighbor. Holly swears it’s nowhere near as delicious as her father-in-law‘s wine. The main grape he used for his wine is Primitivo, typical of the Puglia region.
More countryside Puglia Stories
Holly’s in-laws have olive trees on their land and with the assistance of other countryfolk each year they pick and press their olives which yields them enough olive oil to last the entire year.
Puglia has incredible olive oil and has more centuries old, and millennia old, olive trees than almost anywhere else in the world. They are beautiful and gnarly and well worth seeing. You might enjoy listening to this podcast episode about an award winning olive oil producer in Puglia.
On some of the in-laws’ land other local farmers grew wheat and once it was harvested and ground into flour Holly's in-laws were paid for use of the land in flour.
Puglia Food Stories
Like so many Italian women Holly‘s mother-in-law Claudia was either cooking or planning what she would cook from the first moment of her day until she went to sleep. The classic flour and water-based homemade pasta of the region is orecchiette, a small ear-shaped pasta that Holly‘s mother-in-law made every Sunday and usually several other times during the week. She told Holly that when she first started making them just after she was married she spent the same amount of time making them for herself and her new husband that in later years she spent to prepare orecchiette for 10 or 12 people. Orecchiette is most typically served with broccoli rabe but I love orecchiette with a spicy baby calamari sauce.
In the Bari old town women line the streets making orecchiette for their families, restaurants and passersby.
Sweet & sour artichoke wedges
Holly taught me how to make one of her mother-in-law‘s best dishes: a sweet and sour artichoke wedge dish. We chat about this recipe in today’s podcast episode and she explains exactly how to make it so have a listen!
One dessert Holly‘s mother-in-law made often was cannoli. Rather than using commercial metal tubes to shape the cannoli Holly‘s mother-in-law Claudia used 5 inch pieces of cane. Cane is found all over the place growing next to creeks and rivers and her husband Cosimo would pick them, cut them into pieces and then they would fry them to season them. Holly says her aha moment was when she thought about the Italian word for these canes: canne, and hence the dessert name cannoli!
One of my favorite snacks from Puglia are taralli and here's the recipe.
Within the Puglia region there are many local variations in dishes, especially seafood. In Bari it’s very common to eat lots of raw fish: raw mussels, sea urchins and squid. Here's the Bari seaport:
Squid is cut into thin strips known locally as tagliatelle because they closely resemble this pasta when sliced super-thin.
As you move over to another coastal area of Puglia, Taranto, almost no one eats raw fish.
Cultural and lifestyle Puglia Stories
Holly shared lots of other Puglia stories and I especially love her stories about giving birth in a small local hospital back in the early 1990s. She was in a room with eight other local women from small towns in the area surrounding the hospital and they had lots of advice for Holly, much of it a far cry from what her American friends were sharing with her about their birth experiences in the United States. Have a listen to today’s episode for these curious and charming Puglia stories.
Come to Puglia with me!
Until recent years most visitors to Italy didn’t have Puglia on their bucket list, but that’s changing now. If you’re interested in exploring this region then join me and Holly for our fabulous weeklong trip to Puglia. Here are the details. I also organize bespoke private custom tours to Puglia.
Puglia Stories marks the 50th episode for the Flavor of Italy Podcast!
Today’s Puglia Stories episode marks a landmark for the Flavor of Italy Podcast because it’s the 50th episode! Because of that a few special things will be going on in the coming days and weeks to thank you listeners and the first is a “Puglia Pack” Giveaway so that you can taste a few of my favorite local Puglia products! Below is what you have to do to enter. The giveaway will run for one week starting later this week and there will be two lucky winners!
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