I just finished reading this magical journey of a book: A Year in the Village of Eternity.
It chronicles the life of the author, Tracey Lawson, during her three years living in this beautiful mountain town in the heart of Italy. In Campodimele, the town of eternity and the place where the author made her three year home, the residents seemingly live naturally long lives with an average age of 95. Scientists, journalists and others have researched this town, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that contributes to the residents long lifespans. Lawson, after reading about the town and doing her own research decided she too wanted to know. She moved from her home of land and set up life in this little town of only 671 people. During her extended stay she learned much about the people, the culture and lifestyle of Campodimele. Indeed, instead of finding a single reason for the amazing longevity of the Campomelani, she discovered a beautiful, seasonal and natural way of living which all together contributes to the deep and real health of its citizens.
The book is divided into months in which Lawson describes the various seasonal and food related activities that occur during that time. Whether it’s the pig slaughter of January or the harvest of the little sour-sweet amarene cherries of July Lawson describes every facet of seasonal living in Campodimele in earthy, living detail.
Each month also contains recipes. Yes, real tried and true—authentic—Campodimele recipes. Many of them All of them sound delicious. Particularly delicious sounding to me was a recipe in the month of February called Tagne. When I first read about Tagne and then conceived of writing this post I had grand dreams of researching Tagne and getting all the history behind it to share with you lovely readers…well life doesn’t always work out that way. My several hour-long research into Tagne turned up nothing. So all information about this traditional dish is taken directly from Ms. Lawson and the residents she learned from in Campodimele. We just have to trust them.
So what is Tagne? Essentially it is a frittata with the eggs. Frittata without eggs? Yes, in Campodimele in a time of great poverty, eggs were reserved for special occasions and so the Campomelani devised this version of an eggless frittata. In Campodimele, Tagne is a species of Clematis (Clematis vitalba) that is chopped, boiled and mixed with a bit of flour, olive oil and salt. Where I live we don’t have Clematis vitalba nor do we have any Clematis in February (or March!) and so I thought to myself ‘why not Tagne with dock leaves?’ Dock leaves also called Yellowdock (Rumex crispus and obtusifolium) are a delicious, slightly sour green vegetable. Because of their high oxalic acid content I tend to eat them cooked only. So I tried it and voila…crisp but soft in the center, warm and green tasting with just the barest hint of sour from the oxalic acid all beautifully wrapped up in silky olive oil. I made mine with Hemlock needle oil but you can make yours with any conifer oil or even plain old olive oil (but trust me the dock goes really well with the woody flavor of conifers). So without further ado, my recipe for Dock tagne.
Five large handfuls of dock leaves
Few splashes of Hemlock or other conifer oil
Pinch of Salt, grind of pepper
3 tsp flour (I used a locally ground ‘half wheat’ but I imagine any would work, even gluten free flours. It’s just there to bind things a little).
Chop and then boil the dock for 5-10 minutes and drain in a colander. Run cold water over them to prevent further cooking and to refresh them, then squeeze out as much water as you can. In a bowl toss the dock with the olive oil, salt, pepper and flour. In a round frying pan on med-low heat form the tagne into a disc and fry gently until crispy on one side, then flip and fry the other. Makes a great first course or paired with a few slices of home cured meat or bacon and a piece of fruit, a lovely simple lunch. Enjoy!