The Hearth


This photo is of an old fireplace or hearth (“larin”, in dialect). Around the cracking flames was black soot. Before the smoke wandered the hallways and stairs, it flavored the pork that hung on special poles anchored to the ceiling, which in turn energized the already robust appetites. The hearth was usually in the middle of the darkened wall, surrounded by worn benches towards which light and heat were distributed. On a chain was hung a large cauldron (“cudruzu”, in dialect) from which came the usual smell of polenta. Often cooking slowly in the large pot was barley soup, sometimes embellished with some smoked pork bone.

At the top of the hearth, away from the arms of children, cottage cheese with chives (“ziger santigu,” in dialect), used to flavor lasagna (aldagni) and casunzei (kansanze), was left to mature. At the center of the kitchen was placed the table, surrounded by benches shaped by generations of rustic diners.

In a corner, protected from the rigors of winter, were the hen cages (kapunèrä) which were allowed a close coexistence in gratitude for what they provided. To the various perfumes and strong smells was mingled the usual aroma of overly aged cheeses. Here the family gathered and fed on meager food. What was not entirely consumed was repeated at the next meal.


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