I’ve started taping a show on RAI (Italian tv) that is called Cercasapori. It’s about food and farming in various parts of the country and the episode that I watched today was filmed in Puglia. There are usually a few segments to the show and today one of them featured a trip to a local fish market with a cook who was going to make a fish stew. I found this interesting, but the one that really drew me in was on the production of bread in this part of Italy.
During my stay in Arezzo I was walking home late one afternoon and happened upon a traveling market that was set up on a side street where I usually walked. This wasn’t the market that came every week, but a special one, that was only in town for two days. There were various items for sale-some edible, some not. I was intrigued by the stand that was piled high with gorgeous loaves of bread that were labeled from Puglia. Not having any knowledge at the time of the significance of Puglian bread, I thought it strange that people in Tuscany would want to purchase bread all the way from the south of Italy.
I’ve since come to find out that one of the marked characteristics of this bread is that unlike most other breads, this one stays fresh for a few days. The bread of Altamura was the first European product to be qualified as DOP in the category of Bread and Baking Products. You may be familiar with the DOP (denominazione di origine controllata) label which is used for wines. This bread is made only with wheat grown in a particular geographic area-this one being a specific part of the province of Bari. Baked in an open oak fired wood oven, this bread is fabulous for bruschette and panini and in the winter is known to be served in hearty soup dishes.
Had I only known all this back when I walked by the bread stand at the mercato all’aperto. I would have most certainly preferred this to the saltless Tuscan bread that I usually saw in the shops!