September is ending and the hustle of work and school has once again taken over our lives. In the mountains of Abruzzo weekends can go from warm and sunny on Saturday morning to rainy and chilly on Saturday evening (enough to get a fire blazing in the fireplace) to short-sleeve sunny again on Sunday. Perfect days to sneak in the last few grill-outs of the season.
Which brings me once again to arrosticini.
Arrosticini are to Italian picnic and sagre (small town fairs) like hot-dogs are to the the Fourth of July picnics and county fairs back in the United States. They are tiny shish-kebabs, little chunks of mutton on tiny wooden skewers. The are gilled over coal and are so common in Abruzzo that many families have two outdoor grills, one for most other meets, cheeses and vegetables, another for arrosticini. These grills are long and skinny so that they little sticks rest on the sides and the cook can turn them over with his bare fingers. The fine cut of the mutton and the heat of the coals make otherwise chewy meat tender and and almost primitively delicious.
You have to eat them right off the gril, before they cool and lose their tenderness and flavor. Usually whole plates are places in the middle of the table and people reach and grab a few sticks.
I usually avoid them at sagre, because the lines are too long and chaotic (but this only confirms how popular they are). In our garden in Navelli they are much more fun too cook, shooting the breeze with friends, drinking a bottle of Peroni beer or a glass of local wine. Kids first, then the rest of us. In Abruzzo, as in most of Italy, when it’s dinner with family and friends, there is always more than enough to drink.