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July 11th, 2009

on the road: Vercelli


Catching frogs beside Principato di Lucedio, south of Vercelli, northern Italy. July 9, 2009 © Jeff Koehler.

I am on the road right now in northern Italy, on assignment in the rice fields of the Po River valley – roughly between Milan and the mountains of Piedmont. That means I’ve been eating lots of risotto. But where there are rice fields there are frogs and I’ve been eating a lot of those, too.

Yesterday I had lunch with Countess Rosetta Clara Cavalli d’Olivola and her son Paolo of Principato di Lucedio – not just one of the finest rice farms in northern Italy but also the oldest (I wrote about them in Rice Pasta Couscous). We went to a small trattoria called La Bucunà in Fontanetto Po and had frogs with onions in a rich vinegar sauce and then a stunning risotto with Barolo and sausage.

Back at Lucedio, Paolo had one of the older women who live on the farm show me how to catch frogs. Using an old cane pole with a piece of prosciutto tied to a 4-foot-long piece of string, she bobbled it on the surface of a slow-moving ditch that edges a rice field and made clicking noises with her mouth. When a frog took the big wad of prosciutto in its mouth she yanked it up. The surprised frog came flying out of the water and through the air and she was able to catch it in her hand.

Well, most of them. Those she missed had us flaying around trying to grab before they could leap back into the water.

She put them in a cotton pouch tied to her waist and took them back to the farm, where they would be prepared for dinner.

Posted by jeffkoehler in  images, on the road  |  

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All text and images are ©Jeff Koehler 2007-2009 and cannot be used without his written permission.