'Finocchiona' and the widespread 'infinocchiare' practice in TuscanyLocal Traditions
'Finocchiona' and the widespread 'infinocchiare' practice in Tuscany
We are sure you have already heard of 'finocchiona' before and perhaps you have even tried it: it is the tasty salami made with shoulder, bacon and pork ham, coarsely minced and flavoured with fennel seeds. What you may not be aware of is probably a few quirky facts about its origins. To start with, let’s make it clear that fennel seeds were not chosen instead of pepper for a chef’s mistake. As it is well known, Tuscans are practical people and the reason behind this choice is far more trivial: fennel was cheaper than pepper since the latter was imported from the Far East and, additionally, it disguised the rancid flavour of the meat that often wasn’t super fresh.
Fennel seeds have another property that became particularly useful to winemakers in 1700s: these seeds act as a sort of palate anaesthetic and could alter taste. This is precisely why the Lords of Florence, who travelled to the hills of Tuscany to buy wine, were offered a tasty snack of bread and finocchiona accompanied by a glass of the wine they were about to buy. Since it was known that '... as a skilled hairdresser is capable of making even the ugliest of women look attractive, equally the aroma of finocchiona can disguise the taste of even the most undrinkable wine', the unfortunate buyers were convinced they bought good wine when actually it was not good at all! Once returned home and the fennel effect having worn off, they realised what they had just bought - but unfortunately it was too late: in those days 'money-back guarantee' had yet to be introduced!
And this is the explanation for the quirky linguistic fact related to the so-called 'Matron of Tuscan Salami': according to the story we have just told you, the practice of eating finocchiona, or generally of eating foods that contain fennel or its seeds, is at the origin of the colloquial verb 'infinocchiare', which conveys the meaning of cheating someone, deceiving, presenting with artificial rhetoric something that in reality is rather different.
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