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I have been having camera issues, so I bought a new compact digital. Yet, it doesn’t work like I want it to, especially in the macro mode (that’s where all those close-ups come from, people!). And then yesterday, my old one starts working again. Argh. So now I get to deal with one of the most exciting parts of Italy: the bureaucracy, as I try to take back the new camera (it’s still within a week).
I still have quite a few pictures from my break down in Puglia, and this is one of my favorite memories. And we’re back to fried, mentally and literally. The break seems like a long time ago.
Pettole are typically Pugliese, but it may be known in other regions with different names. You take a basic yeast dough (similar to pizza) and dip it in delicious Pugliese oil and then fry it to hell.
Sometimes eaten with a meal instead of bread, in Sante’s area, the pettole are traditionally eaten the 24th of December, in this case with a very traditional lunch of anguille (eel) and vegetables. I don’t mind eel but all the bones and skin make it a lot of work for not very much pay-off. This year my mother-in-law also cooked some of the anguille in the oven which was much easier to dissect.
I sat down to the table, ready for my obligatory dish of anguille which is almost a superstitious meal to me now, and looked around for my saving grace, the pettole. If I was lucky, and fast, I could sneak 2-3 pieces in with my meal while the others dissected the eel.
But I saw none of the golden, crispy pieces on the table.
How would I shove large pieces of the golden fried bread in with my meager pickings of eel this year? Luckily my mother-in-law understood immediately. “Don’t worry,” she assured me, “we’ll go out and get some later.”
So, we hit the streets. Literally.
Manfredonia has some of the most frustrating traffic of any city I’ve ever been in, yet it’s quite small, about 70,000 people. It’s a maze of historically small streets and hard corners and turns that force any hot-rodders to slow down and any hurry to be set on the back-burner as you wade through the traffic.
So it makes sense that clever entrepreneurs would take to the streets with their wares. This time it was just what we were looking for. And apparently lots of other people were looking for pettole as well.
There’s something about deep-frying that you can’t really leave to amateurs. That meager 1/2 inch of oil you’ve tentatively poured into a frying pan is nothing compared to a boiling pool of oil calibrated to fry perfectly.
[Click through to my site for two embedded videos to watch pettole being made]
My in-laws worked a few inside connections to jump the line (sometimes they pull the “daughter-in-law is American” card) and we walked away before the rest of the crowd with a paper bag filled with steaming-hot pettole.
And all was right.