May Day in Casaprota was a public holiday, but there were no red flags, no marches or demonstrations, and the union presence seemed non-existent. Anyone from Australia would have been disconcerted by the absence of sporting events on a public holiday, but this was a celebration focused squarely on cibo, the sort of food they have been eating in Casaprota for a long time. Now is the season of fava beans, a cousin (possibly distant) of the familiar broad bean, but two or three times as long and glowing with life. I imagine somewhere in the Sabina region fava beans adorn a crest.
Unlike broad beans, fava are eaten raw. Perhaps surprisingly, they are delicious. It was common to see le signore of the town seated on their plastic chairs with a lap full of these marvellous greens. For this occasion (and perhaps generally) the raw fava were accompanied by thick slices of bread drizzled with the local highly-regarded Sabina olive oil, pecorino romano cheese, sliced into thick pieces, a regional prosciutto carved on the spot by a group of enthusiastic and happily argumentative men, and the local red wine, a variety unknown to me that proved too-easily consumable. Everything — and this was obvious — was local. It was a statement of place, but made unselfconsciously.
And it wasn’t just the food. There was a brass band of locals, mainly young people, that played for half an hour or more, then the highlight, for some (including me) was Bertoldo the clown and his marvellous offsider, whose name, embarrassingly, I have forgotten.
With an absolute minimum of props — a few pieces of manufactured magic such as books, pots and kettles — lots of energy and silliness and participation for the kids, these two kept the kids of the town (and plenty of adults) spellbound for forty-five minutes or more until the heavens opened and an untimely shower sent everyone ducking for cover.
There was a real sense of self-sufficiency about the evening — perhaps a tourist might see it as quaint or folksy, (for some curious reason American terms spring immediately to mind), but it wasn’t that, it was just itself, it was perfectly normal and ordinary. That is to say, this is the sort of thing that happens here…