Bread represents a precious, almost sacred food for the people of Aosta Valley.
The reason being that mountain flower is very rare: the soil is thin, the climate is severe, the mountain slopes are steep and rocky and the little corncobs barely ever blossom. Thus parents and grandparents taught their children, since their early years, that “to throw away a piece of bread is a sin”. Just think, before cutting the bread farmers makes the Sign of the Cross and they believe that you must never turn the loaf of bread upside down: legend says that the Devil will dance on it! Not too long ago baking the bread was a ritual itself which the whole community “celebrated” in October. Only during October because, in the mountains, bread is made once a year!
Everyone, men and women, were called to work on the baking: men brought to the oven the wood necessary to warm thick walls for at least 12 hours. The youngsters with strong arms had the important task of kneading the flower into big basins with water and yeast. Then, the sticky mixture, was left for hours to rest. Lastly the women worked on the loafs of bread, giving them various shapes and decorations: every village had their own bread – designs and arabesques which added onto the preciousness of the bread. At the end of it all, however, the result was in the hands of the master baker whom watched over the fire and loafs of bread while the rest danced and sang to celebrate the moment of festivity even more.
Dear readers, the Valley’s stories are wonderful even when they narrate true facts and they always carry a lesson for the attentive and active wanderer.