Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hello bean eating cowboy!

If I was forced to indicate the precise moment when I first started to long for American food, even without knowing anything about it, I would probably put this moment sometime during the '70s, when I first watched the movie My name is Trinity

Lo chiamavano Trinita', this the Italian title, is a 1970 Italian spaghetti western movie, where a drifter, Trinity, comes to a city somewhere along the Southern American frontier, and goes berserk against the local baron. It is a typical comedy from the '70s, with a lot of fights, a lot of shooting and a simple plot: watching it now, you will realize why Quentin Tarantino claims that this type of movie was one of his main inspirations.

There is a scene in that movie in which Trinity eats a cast iron skillet full of beans. That scene is a cult, now: every Italian who was a kid in the '70s has grown up with it. Watching it, you don't need to speak Italian: only a few words are spoken, and they are unimportant. What is important is that Trinity sits down and he eats a lot of beans. A gigantic skillet full of it (you can stop watching at minute 5).


If you do not get hungry watching this scene, there is something wrong with you. There certainly was nothing wrong with me at the time, because I remember still now how I watched that scene mesmerized. I wanted those beans, I wanted to put bread in the sauce and eat it. Hell, I want it even now!

But there was another aspect of that scene that kept coming back to my mind every time I watched a Western movie where cowboys were shown eating around an open fire: the cast iron skillet. It epitomized for me the American West. I can't recall in how many movies the cowboy is shown picking his skillet from the horse saddlebag and cook something in it.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I realized my dream: I now own a cast iron skillet. I love everything about it: its heavy weight, the fact that you need to condition it first, before being able to cook in it, the fact that it can last forever. So far I have only used it to cook corn bread (I prefer chili con carne with corn bread rather than with rice)...but this coming weekend I will cook beans in it. And I will eat them like Trinity did in that movie of so many years ago.

My corn bread in my new cast iron skillet

8 comments:

art said...

Digging these introspective posts about American food. Most of us who are really into food remember moments in our past that were seeded in the back of our minds the whole time and shape our food philosophies. I completely relate to your thoughts about the beans and the skillet and it's interesting to hear them from someone like you who grew up in another country. It's funny to think that Americans in the west could all be rough cowboy types who lived on beans from skillets. Even I grew up with similar thoughts about eating beans on the range from a skillet cooked from a chuckwagon. My family at our fair share of beans (my Dad is British) but we never had a cast iron skillet--it just wasn't part of our type of Midwestern culture. So the skillet was almost as foreign to me as it was to you. One observation: that's a big skillet--that's a lot of beans to eat. Keep up the good writing.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Art, thank you! I can totally see the pioneers with their heavy skillets in their caravans building America!

And you are right: if you love food, you will always remember those few moments when something went on in your mind...it can be a smell in the kitchen, a movie, a book, anything!

Britgirl said...

"Blazing saddles" springs to mind :p
Seriously I use my skillet for camping and have made some great stews, dumpling dishes and apple cobbler!!!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

That's exactly what I am talking about!

I need to try to do an apple tart in that thingy: as I mentioned, so far I have used it only for corn bread, and it is the best corn bread I have ever made so far. So why not a cobbler???

But my next thing is going to be pork chops...

Nicoletta said...

No wonder you salivate watching those beans: you're Tuscan and Tuscans are bean eaters! :D

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Guilty as charged...

Judith Klinger said...

Welcome to the world of cast iron! I have my grandmothers pans and I cherish them. Try searing a steak in your new baby.

And maybe you can explain why no one in Italy uses cast iron? One of the mysteries of life.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Judith, welcome! It is a very good question, but unfortunately I have no answer...although we do use dutch ovens very often, but never the pans.

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