Anchovies in Piedmont
You may wonder why a dish typically associated with landlocked Piedmont would include a sea faring fish. There are a multitude of theories about why the anchovies became so important to Piedmontese cuisine, but the most prominent has to do with the salt that fish are typically preserved in. Salt used to be a highly sought after commodity which was taxed heavily along trade routes. To avoid paying taxes, certain merchants would put a few layers of salted anchovies on top of their salt supply so that when the tax inspectors opened the barrel, they would only see the anchovies which were not subject to the same taxes as salt. This illicit activity is what originally brought salted anchovies to Piedmont, and over time, people developed a taste for them and began incorporating them into sauces and braises. Eventually this lead to a legitimate market for anchovies. In order to bring in additional money, poor farmers would go to the Ligurian coast after their harvest and load up their carts with salted anchovies. They’d bring the carts from village to village during the winter months, meeting the demand that the region had developed for the fish.
How to Eat Bagna Càuda
Bagna càuda is a fantastically social dish – it’s basically the fondue of northern Italy. The dip is served with vegetables – traditionally a relative of the artichoke called a cardoon, but any crunchy veggies will do – which are dipped into the bagna càuda. You essentially use bread as an edible plate while enjoying the dip, allowing any drips from your veggies to fall down onto pieces of a country loaf. Once the bread is somewhat saturated, you eat the bread and then repeat the process. There are few foods better suited for a party! Served with a glass of from our wine harvest in Piedmont, it’s immersively delicious. As a bonus, you don’t have to deal with any plates or silverware when serving bagna càuda (yay for fewer dishes). Just be sure to have some napkins on hand and you’ll be all set.
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