"Everything is good fried", but Piedmontese style is better!
It is from moments of difficulty that the most incredible stories are born. I don't say it, the history books say it.
It is from poverty that wealth is born, because it mirrors the times when people used their intellect more, for survival rather than for convenience.
Think of the material significance of the slaughter of an animal in the past: an act so fundamental to human survival that great feasts were organised on such occasions. And it was precisely this necessity that led to trying to waste as little as possible of the poor beast, sacrificed to be eaten. The mentality I am talking about is one that has led man to consume even the less noble parts of the animal, the so-called 'fifth quarter' or, more commonly, offal.
Among the many typical regional Italian dishes based on offal, in our Piedmont region there is a recipe that derives precisely from them: Fritto misto alla piemontese.
And this dish is indeed of poor and popular origin, also born out of the need not to throw away anything from slaughtered animals, in this case lambs, pigs and calves. The poorest parts, among which could not miss the brains, liver, sweetbreads, tenderloins and testicles, were the historical basis of this recipe.
Once obtained from the slaughter, these parts were breaded and fried in oil, traditionally accompanied by a side dish of cooked carrots.
Over time, as with most of today's most famous Italian dishes, it was realised that fritto misto had great potential. Thus it began to be served in Piedmontese inns and taverns and, gradually, new products were added, all strictly fried like meats, as well as various varieties of vegetables, fruit and even desserts.
Today, fritto misto alla piemontese has a wide selection of products, varying seasonally. In addition to meat dishes, vegetables such as cauliflower, artichokes, courgettes, aubergines and squash flowers are served; fruit such as apples, pears, prunes and bananas; and desserts such as amaretti biscuits, pavesini filled with hazelnut cream or jam, baci di dama (lady's kisses) and sweet semolina.
To this day, fritto misto alla piemontese remains a dish eaten exclusively on feast days, a great way to make a meal convivial and plentiful; also because, as we can well imagine, we are talking about a very caloric and quite heavy dish, which cannot be eaten too often.
Although fritto misto proposals are varied in the Piedmont region, it is not easy to find ones that are well made and of high quality, especially if you are aiming for savings.
The reason is very simple: frying seems, apparently, to be a very simple cooking method. The reality of the facts, however, is quite different, because there are many precautions to be taken when frying.
Nowadays, gourmet restaurants carefully analyse each product they will have to fry and, to each one, they assign a different oil and a different coating (which can be a breadcrumb or a batter). In this way, they manage to make the most of each ingredient in the fritto misto.
Among the festivals or celebrations worth mentioning is 'Il gran fritto misto alla piemontese' in Vigliano d'Asti (AT), which will take place on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 November, i.e. next weekend, and will make it possible to dine or have lunch with this splendid dish and other typical Piedmontese products.
The fritto misto alla piemontese perfectly reflects the entire Italian regional cuisine: poor, salvaged ingredients that are divinely treated by the precious hands of grandmothers who have the mad skills to transform them into dishes that, centuries later, have become iconic and sometimes represent our nation in the world.
This is why, when you are seated at the table of a typical Piedmontese osteria, with a good glass of Barbera and an abundant plate of fritto misto, don't just think about filling your belly, live the moment with passion and a lot of respect for those who, with humility and experience, have given us this immense heritage.