Easter colored eggs and the game of "Tozza tozza"

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Children and youngsters, at the first warmth of “summer”, removed shoes and caluosci (wood and leather clogs), and the most fortunate, shoes, walking barefoot on the lava stone slabs already warm. In the short shorts pockets, there were two things, essentialat that time...One was the ubiquitous strummolo (the Spin with string) and the other was the tiramolla (the sling).The latter served to undermine the lizards and, with very little success, small migratory birds skipping plant to plant. Before Palm Sunday instead, in all homes, grandmothers and mothers prepared the eggs dyed red, boiling them with natural dyes, roots or other.The “red eggs” were instant prey to us children and teenagers, boys and girls.Happy, with our egg in hand, we played, for hours, in spaces that smelled of spring and freedom.We played tozza tozza.«When Buonocore ladies put us in a circle to teach the gospel now, the catechism or more dull (only for girls) “good manners” behavior, there was always joker who intervened», recalls my friend Odette Del Dotto.«Signuri, to me, told me Barbone, that the fact of the red eggs, is not a thing of Jesus, but belongs to the pagan history.


 The eggs are red-to-the-fertility-of-the-ground».That time Giuvanniello was unfortunate, because gossiped the pastor, Don Pasquale, who pulled him by the ear and, putting his knees on lentils scattered on platform of the confessional, ordered him to pray ten Glory to the Father and ten Hail Mary.Before and after the war, in Ischia, there were two ways to play Tozza tozza.Older children challenged to two at a time: the egg held in one hand with the tip side up and beat lightly with the Challenger. Who came out with the point Egg bruised, had lost... the egg. A month before the race, we chose the chickens with smaller egg. Then we began to force-feed with bits of plaster, shards of the shell of their own eggs, cooked onions and peel vegetables. Most hens belonged to a brown race, and the best egg was already a bit darker; never white. For boiling was imperative to put in a narrow and tall saucepan, the egg with its tip upside down, so the air contained within it rose toward the opposite side, the width one, that one to not cocciare.Even the winner in the end had to break, peel and eat the egg. Just so he showed that he had cheated.He is playing at home or away....The younger children instead competed in Tozza tozza to the ground ....They played often in the clearing behind the mouth of the harbor in Ischia Ponte or down to the Marina. Here were the best slopes, which were carefully swept, almost dusted. No a small pebble! The eggs should be regular and rounded because they had tumbled best possible. We chose a clearing with a runway of more than two meters long and slightly sloping. Each of the participants supported a “coin”, on hard-boiled egg. The children, in turn let slip the egg down the gentle slope. When their own egg, colorful and numbered clashed another egg that had the coin leaning over, they appropriated the money that fell to the ground.However, winner or not, the egg was carveled and eventually broke. We took it home andwe began to whine to have another one to play carefree on the following day.
 All day long...The ritual of coloring eggs was a bit different from family and family. Probably the archaic method, the oldest and most used was to color it with fresh roots of the poisonous rubia plant, which we call ‘a ruva. After finding the plants the roots were extracted. Then at home, the only roots are cleaned from the ground, rinsed carefully, slightly stepped on and put to boil. After cooled the infusion were added and the eggs boiling them on a slow fire, along with a little red vinegar and a “pinch of salt” which was used in order not to damage the egg during the boiling, for not more than 15 minutes, the penalty toxicity of everything!But, after a legend, true or false, also on the island the eggs are dyed in multiple ways. At least since1787!Here’s the story.
 One day, King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon summoned chief physician Don Francesco Buonocore and said:“My dear friend, at Easter, I would like to issue a call for those who dyesbest eggs, all colored. If the winner will be a woman I will donate a trunk with an entire trousseau. If a man will win, I do not know ... I do not know what we could give him as reward…».«Your Majesty, half of the masculine population, so allowed or not, it’s crazy for huntingbirds and hares. We give the winner the opportunity to hunt with the crossbow, coots in your lake!», replied the physician, confidant and procurer of the King. <<Well said! So left it be done>> , said the Sovereign ...There was immediately a crazy commotion, a general confusion in the whole district, and everyfamily, poor or wealthy, began to try and try again. Within three days there was not even one egg!After exhausting selections were only three eggs choices.It must be said that one risked his skin as he wanted to re pouring an egg of a beautiful carmine red, shiny; finally he had to confess to having kept for two hours in the rubia plant. The vinegar, the myrtle berries and a cloth drape purple of unknown origin.
 At Palm Sunday. Among the branches of olive trees joyfully agitated and “palm” very white and twisted, among beats of drums and loud peals of bells, whistles and flourishes, here, the chosen ones, fearful and hopeful at the same time, were preparing to present their egg to the King .The scene took place at the Royal Casino: announced ten heavy drum beats, the first egg was presented to the King; belonged to a farmer from Piedimonte who had dyed only with the roots of rubia. He had a nice light red and amber. Second egg.
 A prosperous peasant girl from Forio fascinated the King as soon as she crossed the marble threshold that led into the long room. Surely, the first to appreciate and evaluate the egg that carried in her apron. The girl, wrapped in a long tunic with bare feet, had a narrow waist with a yellow band that left imagine, indeed accentuated, hanches plantureuses.She was about twenty, with fiery black eyes and supple olive skin. This beautiful egg had been boiled for twenty minutes along with berries and leaves of myrtle, a pinch of salt, a little red wine vinegar, cinnamon bark, purple cabbage leaves and black cherry leaves. It came of a spectacular cobalt blue egg.The third and final egg came, very slowly, in the presence of the King set on a sheet of white hemp. It was in a fiery red and shining like glittered, reflecting all the trappings hanging on the walls. «You!! How did you do it?», asked the King with his deep voice.Young Anilluccio, winemaker of the Mandarin area, also barefoot, kneeled, eyes on the ground and still making maximum egg careful, replied with a faint voice: «His Most Excellent Majesty, I put the egg in cold water, peel and pulp of a red onion, a cup of red wine vinegar and I let boil, slowly, for two hourglasses. I let it cool and after I polished ??or with a woolen cloth greased with lard of Don Simeon».«When in San Martino will open the coots hunt, let come even this man of the people», declared the King appropriating egg.With a nod he called the chief physician and, in his ear: «Bring to our table the peasant of Forio ... even without the egg», ordered the King.Without another word, the King walked in the immense dining room where, under the lights of the two great chandeliers, on the ceremonial table, was waiting for him one of his favorite dishes: a quantity of huge and mullet-fed lake fished in his lake fried in pork lard.
 Nowadays, even by us, the eggs are dyed and decorate, boiled or not, in the most varied and creative ways.The system to guarantee a color between golden yellow and orange is to boil the egga long with saffron, a clove, the skins of blonde onions of Forio, a spoon of vinegar and, in the end, to wipe it well with good extra virgin oil. Another is to boil it along with a few cups of dark coffee that colors the eggs of beautiful amber brown. In any case in every home of Ischia there is the preparation of family that is, beyond any doubt, the best "recipe".   

By Pino Macrì

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  • Surface: 46 Kmq
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