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Once a year you can go nuts!

An ancient celebration where one should expect the unexpected
 
Silvia Monti / Storyteller

An ancient celebration where one should expect the unexpected

Once a year you are allowed to go nuts! / SEMEL IN ANNO LICET INSANIRE

Celebration preserved in fresco

Since ancient times they would typically have a few days in mid-December during which there were no rules or better the rules were turned upside-down: women could approach and seduce men, servants were served by their masters and so on. This festivity was called Saturnalia because it was under the patronage of Saturn, god of chaos and dissolution as well as the god of planting and harvest.

Something similar used to happen even in the Christian Rome when people would gather in February to celebrate tournaments and carousels in what later became Piazza Navona. Citizens would dressed up and mock upper classes.

With the passing of time, this became so popular that the Pope had to promulgate different laws just for a few days to let people occupying the streets and squares because there were so many participating. The degree of craziness was so high that extra hangmen would be hired just for this period. People from everywhere would flock to Rome to be part of this madness.

The degree of craziness was so high that extra hangmen would be hired just for this period. People from everywhere would flock to Rome to be part of this madness.

The celebration’s program was planned in advance, incorporating elements of Roman tradition as well as introducing surprises in order to leave the people speechless. Among the traditional elements were races: every day there used to be a run, first among people from roman Jewish community, then among kids, young men, old ones, races of cows and donkeys and last but not least the most popular race of berberi horses.

The most traditional element was the food. In Italy, would you aspect any different? Food was a very important part of the celebration because, at the end of carnival, people would face a long period of penitential Lent, so if they wished to indulge in something this was the right moment! Most of the food was fried and a lot of sugar was used as well.


Two of the most typical carnival recipes, which we would like to share with you are the “frappe“ and “castagnole.”

FRAPPE

Flour: 400g

Eggs: 4

Butter: 80g

Granulated Sugar: 2 tablespoons

Lemon Zest: 1 or 2 teaspoons

Vegetable Oil for frying

Powdered Sugar or Melted Chocolate as a topping

This is a super easy recipe you can use to surprise your friends with. You can choose to fry or bake the frappe but I suggest you to try them fried at least once in your life!

So let’s begin:

  1. Mound the flour and produce a hollow in the middle where you’ll put the eggs, softened butter, sugar and grated lemon skin.
  2. Knead the dough until it will be well mixed, then form a ball and let it rest covered for 40min.
  3. Roll out the dough until you form sheets as thin as a piece of paper.
  4. Cut rectangular piece using a kitchen knife or better a pasta-cutter wheel and tie in loose knots.
  5. Fry a few at time in very hot oil and put some sugar over before serving. Enjoy!

CASTAGNOLE

Flour: 200g

Eggs: 2

Butter: 50g

Granulated Sugar: 2 tablespoons

Rum: 1 shot

Baking Yeast: 1 pinch

Vegetable Oil for frying

Powdered Sugar or Melted Chocolate as a topping

Let the fun begin!

  1. Knead the dough as you did for the frappe, until is is well mixed and let it rest for 30min.
  2. Use a spoon to form little balls from the dough and fry them in very hot oil until they are golden brown in color puff up a bit.
  3. Put them on absorbent paper and cover with sugar or chocolate. Enjoy!

About the Author


Silvia Monti is an archeologist, a tour guide and a story teller, born and raised in Rome. She began showing her family and friends around Rome to share its rich past and history when she discovered her passion for sharing the hidden stories- from the lowest cobblestone up to the highest dome.

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