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Friday 18 December 2020

Made In Naples: The Octopus Tea!

Like most of the Neapolitan recipes, with the idea that nothing is thrown away in the kitchen, the octopus broth was born in Naples. When preparing octopus, it is usually boiled in water with chilli, carrots, bay leaves and celery. Once ready, the octopus rises from its broth, ready to be eaten, but what to do with the water remains? Throw it away? Certainly not, because that's where all the flavour is! So why not drinking it, to ensure the consumption of all benefits?

"O bror e purpo" - A Traditional Neapolitan Recipe

My mother, born in 1952, told me about the mornings when she went to school in one of the oldest institutes in Naples (in the heart of Pignasecca, at the exit of the Cumana). These mornings would be peculiar, finding herself struck by the numerous women who, despite their old age or disabilities, would crowd the street corner just to buy "
o bror e purpo" for a few lire. This scene was even more picturesque because these ladies, armed with their own cup, would use all their energy to grab "a ranftella". Oh yes, because that was the real delicacy! The tentacles of the octopus! This story my mother would tell me every time when I would wrinkle my nose, forced to drink that dark broth with an intense flavour of the sea. This tradition was especially held for Christmas, when it was considered a must-deal before the meal. Perhaps, a comparable custom as drinking mulled wine for the people from the North. In fact, my grandmother wanted all her grandchildren to drink that old recipe concoction with its mysterious nourishing and restorative properties, giving us the hint that the special flavour comes from using the real seawater to make it. With the hope of growing up healthy and strong (and to please her), we the children would drink up our cups, fighting over who had won the "la ranfetella"!

Slow Food Italy Style

Today, the street sellers who once offered octopus broth, equipped with their giant pots that crowded the alleys of Naples, have almost completely disappeared along with other traditional snacks such as "
the tarallaro", and "the zeppaiulo". This is also due to the strict hygiene rules imposed by the European Community which have hit the street vendors scattered around the city very hard. Yet, in some corners of Naples, there is still someone who prepares "o bror e purpo". If you wonder where, you can start your search behind Porta Capuana, in Piazza Enrico de Nicola, and along Via Foria… During the winter cold days, it can be also found in some restaurants, where they offer it as an aperitivo to restore their old customers.

Written by Paola