When men drink, then
they are rich and lucky and win
suits in court and are happy and
help their friends.
(Aristophane, The knights)
In September, all around Cuneo big feasts are made for the just-ripen corn, the so-called “meliga”.
A cascade of red-orange grains, a ray of light in the incoming autumn, when Dolcetto grapes have already been harvested.
On the hills of the Langhe the main feast is the one of the harvest, but it’s a short one, celebrated only in the fields, while everyone is gathering those turgid and beautiful bunches of grapes; a quick celebration because of the rain that could come and spoil everything, and because of all the work that still has to be done.
The true feast are the hands and hearts of the vendemmioire, their quick lunch break, made of a soma d’aj and some grapes.
The meeting under the backyard porch for peeling the corncobs, for despojé (a term that originated many laughs among young people, meaning “to undress”) can be compared to the harvest feast, because in La Morra it usually took place between the feast for the harvest of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo grapes.
The cobs, after having been peeled, were gathered and hung until dry.
In this despojé feast the traditional menu was made of polenta, served with three special sauces, a kind of gastronomic archeology: the cognà, the tàrtra salata, and the bagna ‘d l’infern.
Then, the feast continued with the hare in civet and, completely changing the traditional menus, the cheese was replaced by a hot cup of fondue with Alba white truffle.
Then, the paste di meliga and later, when everyone was chatting, a hot cup of vin brulé.
Only two kinds of wine were allowed: Dolcetto d’Alba with the polenta, Barolo and vintage barolo after it, also with the sweets.