Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Polar Bears in Venice & Lentils with Sausage

On the first day of the year, we went to the beach on the Lido to watch the “Ibernisti”, I like to call them the Polar Bears.
They're a group of intrepid bathers, who try to take a dip in the sea every day of the year, no matter what the weather, and on New Year's Day, they do it in STYLE.

In Venice, its customary to eat "Lenticchie e Musetto" (Lentils and Sausage) as your first meal of the year, to encourage lady luck to smile upon you."Musetto" actually means the face, yes the face, or if you are a pig, the snout. It is made up of some meat parts of the face, other cuts of pork meat, the rind and many many secret spices.
lucky fellow
This traditional New Year's dish, combines two of Italy's culinary symbols of good luck and fortune. Lentils, when cooked, swell and resemble coins, and the pork sausage, thanks to its fat content, represents wealth. What right minded Venetian, could say no, to this double whammy of wealth and fortune, and even better, it's all served for free! This dish, is what awaits the thirty or so, not so right minded Polar Bears, plus a couple hundred, heavily dressed, hungry onlookers. Some of the crowd, actually DO resemble  bears!
The swim-suited bears, pad slowly towards the waters edge, holding balloons (for safety?!) and take their icy plunge in the Adriatic, safe in the knowledge that when they get out all smiling and jack frosted, they'll warm themselves up with piping hot, wealth inducing lentils with a thick piece of prosperous, sticky sausage, a glass or two of vino and a hearty slice of panettone (Italian Christmas cake).
having a drink or two...
... or 30!!
We cheer and hoot them for about two minutes, and then race back up the beach to form an orderly Italian line (it was, surprisingly!) to get our food, leaving our hero's squealing and turning various shades of pink in the shivering sea. 
Thus, the Venetian food calendar begins.
So, how to make this hearty wintery dish. Well, the recipe is a breeze, and, remember, any flavoursome fatty sausage will do, or you add a thick piece of smoky pancetta (bacon) during the cooking of the lentils, this will impart a great smoky taste.
Go to Lentils and Sausage Recipe

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