The cooks at the grape harvest

6 Oct 2021 | Life

For ten years they have spent a month working in the kitchen of the Loppiano farm. Daniele and Rita responded generously to a request to share their menu with the grape harvesters in Loppiano.

Preparing stewed wild boar and polenta is a real satisfaction for chefs like them. It’s a local favorite and much appreciated by the grape harvesters who travelled to Loppiano from all over Italy. Animal infestations caused a lot of damage to the crops, including the vineyards, so cooking dishes with the meat provided by local hunters, gave quite a bit of subtle pleasure even to two non-violent types like Daniele and Rita.

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, the first course, is another specialty of local chefs, and this year they added a new dessert, a pudding of flour and freshly squeezed grape juice. Daniele and Rita are the chefs of the harvest at the Loppiano 4.0 Farm. They started out in 2010 as volunteer harvesters. Then, in 2011, help was needed in the kitchen, so they made their debut, alternating with a couple from Macerata in central Italy. For the past four years they have been totally responsible for the kitchen for the entire month of the harvest.

Forty-three years of married of life has certainly made them close. They had both been previously employed before retiring making themselves available for the cooking at an oratory. They live on the outskirts of Como, five kilometers from the Swiss border. But the journey and the long distance from their home didn’t not stop them.

“Because of the anti-Covid rules,” they explain, “we couldn’t have more than 24 people at the table, and the farm could only host 15″. In their kitchen, the ingredient of enthusiasm is never been lacking, but neither has concreteness. “We don’t want there to be any waste in the kitchen,” Daniele points out, “but we make sure that even last-minute arrivals are able to eat or be offered a small encore of each course. Still, we’re careful not to throw anything away.”

For the Buzzoni couple, it all started in 2010 when, with a group of families from Como, they travelled to Loppiano for the first time, to spend the Easter holidays there. They heard that there was a search for volunteers for the harvest and said to themselves: Why not? In fact, they were quite accustomed to being generous. They had participated in the Genfest of 1985 and since then they have been living the spirituality of the Focolare.

Daniele and Rita do not limit their activity to the month of the harvest. Throughout the year they make contact with old harvesters and new candidates, organizing schedules or every week of the grape harvest. “Come and see,” they tell everyone. “Last year a nephew of ours who had finished university came to harvest,” Rita reports. “He’s working now but had a week off and asked on his own if he could come back.”

Quality grapes and new investments

The harvest ended on October 4th, which coincided with the closing of Pope Francis’s Season of Creation. “We took something more to the cellar than last year,” says Dario Petrucci with satisfaction from the Loppiano 4.0 Farm. He is very grateful to the grape harvesters who came from different parts of Italy, as well as the many inhabitants of Loppiano. “We kept our feet dry,” because the rain didn’t interfere with the harvest. It only came an hour after we had dismantled the machines, which was like another sign of Heaven’s closeness to this citadel.”
The frost at the end of March had raised fears of a lost harvest, but then, thanks to the work of Luigi, the agronomist, and the adoption of new techniques to protect the vineyards from insects and disease while respecting the organic culture, good grapes were able to ripen. Locks prevented wild boars and roe deer, from going beyond electric fences. The next investment will be to set up an electrified mesh around each vineyard.
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