Il Calendario del Sale

January 12, 2012 / Local Interest
Onions and salt to predict the weather in the New Year? Over our years on the land, I’ve learned how farm women can take off il malocchio, how St. Anthony’s image in a stall will keep the animals healthy, how a cross made of woven reeds can protect the crops in the field and that you never shake out a tablecloth nor throw out the crumbs swept off the floor after the Ave Maria (ie, after 6 pm) – and now I’ve learned how to predict the coming year’s weather with onions and salt.

In early January, what a feast with Paolo and Giuseppa at their Deruta farmhouse (the only foods on their table NOT raised by them are the sugar, coffee and salt)! After the meal, Paolo went out to the cellar where they age their prosciutti, gingerly balancing a long wooden board with twelve wedges of onion sprinkled with rock salt, all in a line down the board. Pointing to them one at a time, Giuseppa solemnly chanted, “gennaio, febbraio, marzo, aprile, marzo….

Paolo, il capo famiglia, had peeled the outer level of a couple large white onions on Christmas Eve and then sliced them into twelve half-moon-shaped wedges, then dropping a teaspoon of rock salt onto each wedge. Out in the cellar where crates of potatoes, cabbages, fennels, and squash fill the floor space and bunches of garlic and onions hang over the just-salted prosciutti, he set the board, making sure the head of the board faced east towards the rising sun.

On the morning of December 25th, he and Giuseppa headed to the cellar to check the slices. Some onion wedges were dry, some were moist with water. Giuseppa took out the calendar and penciled in asciutto (dry), bagnato (wet) or even molto bagnato (water pooling in the onion wedge) on each month of their farmhouse kitchen calendar.

(part II coming tomorrow…!)

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

11 Responses to “Il Calendario del Sale”

  1. elisabeth lando

    happy New year , always very interesting , thank you . do you have recommendations for a walking tour ad or cooking lessons for the spring somewhere n italy if possible near the sea?
    grazie mille
    elisabeth lando

  2. Gian Banchero

    We here in California could use Paolo’s expertise being that we’re in a drought but the weatherfolks keep predicting rain which never arrives; maybe I should start slicing an onion immediately. Grazie Anne.

  3. Rosemary Johnson

    Loved part one of the story. Can’t wait to find out what the onions predicted!

  4. Sandra Guidi

    Annie, you are such a storyteller and I love it!! I am hopeful we can pull something together again and attend one of your cooking classes here in northern California. YUM!!! Can’t wait for Part II of the story tomorrow…

  5. LOVE it!!!! This calendario di sale is a new one for me. I’ll have to ask my Mom if she remembers her mother doing anything like this. Can’t wait for part II.

  6. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    this was all part of the old way, a

    Pre-Christian time that is held over or amalgamated into a Christianize folk belief. Much of Italy still holds to these old customs of which there are many. It would be interesting to hear what your families do and believe along those lines.

  7. Jimmie Ellis

    This was SUCH an interesting article. I am wondering, just what, exactly, is the method for removing il malocchio ? Can you tell me, or maybe recommend a book that might tell me? Please DO reply! Anyone out there who knows, I’d LOVE to hear. Thank you so very much.
    Grazie e mille grazie!

    Jimmie Ellis

  8. Happy New Year! I love your stories. When I was young and had a headache that would linger, my mother said it could be “il malocchio.” She would call Signora Raffaela. She put water and olive oil in a bowl, say prayers(so my mother said) and cut the oil circles with a scissor. Did it work? I don’t remember!

  9. Brian Swanecamp

    Loved the article especially since I enjoyed lunch at Giuseppa and Paolos farmhouse last September. I took Anne’s full day tour to Perugia and Deruta which included lunch. This was the highlight of my entire 10 day trip to Umbria. Giuseppa prepared homemade fettuicne with a meal flavored red sauce, roasted goose and rabbit, roasted potatoes, homemade bread and for dessert – a fig torte and watermelon! Scrumtuous from start to finish!!


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