“Pane e fave” (bread & broadbeans), an Abruzzo spring feast
As you can imagine, traditional Abruzzo food is highly seasonal. Put it quite simply, you cook what you can find in your orchard or in the fields – an early, authentic version of the recent “foraging” trend! For this reason, Spring is an especially good time for the typical Italian home chef, as he or she will have a lot of seasonal produce at hand- including asparagus, artichokes, spinach, peppers, courgettes and a variety of beans. From fresh, tender peas to green beans, borlotti beans, green beans and…broad beans- also called fava beans – which are the lead character in today’s post.
Broadbeans are rich in vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber. In ancient times, when there was very little meat available, the dried beans were eaten all year round – in soups, or mashed- as a source of protein. Dishes featuring broadbeans – like the Sicilian “Maccu di favi” (broadbean puree) – are common in traditional Italian cooking and especially across the South
“Fave” are plentiful and cheap in Abruzzo in Spring, and most people who still have their own terra (a small plot of farmland) will grow some to eat on their own and share with relatives and neighbours. If I am at home in Spring, I often here the buzzer ring- it’s some uncle or an acquaintance of my parents calling in to say “I brought you some fave!”, gifting us a huge bunch of unopened pods, still smelling like the earth.
In Abruzzo, we mostly eat broadbeans raw when they’re fresh, with an accompaniment of -you guessed it- bread (sometimes homemade bread) and extra virgin olive oil. On its own, it can be a simple everyday supper, or it can turn into a feast involving the extended family and sometimes the neighbours. In the latter case, eating” pane e fave” actually becomes a potluck where everyone brings something to the table – ending in a feast with cured meats, cheese, other vegetable sides …and of course bread and broadbeans!
The pictures have been taken at my most recent family gathering around “pane e fave”. As you can see, here the broadbeans become an excuse for a proper banquet. Salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, pecorino and other typical foods from Abruzzo are also on the table where three generations of the family eat together (actually four generations, as my Sister is expecting a baby!).
As much as broadbeans are not my favourite vegetable, I cherish this moment as a beautiful tradition. We celebrate the return of Spring, and the visit of the members of the family living abroad like me.
Do you eat “pane e fave” in your family or neighbourhood? Do you have a similar Spring tradition? Let me know in the comments