In the distant past, when children played on the street chasing a ball made of rags, men dedicated themselves to working the land returning home at sunset, women took care of the house nourishing the spirit of its inhabitans.
Kneading it by hand was common practice. Every housewife knew how to pack it following the instructions given by grandmothers and mothers, true holders of their recipe’s secrets that with patience and satisfaction took care to pass on to the young women of the house.
Instead, cooking it was the task of expert master bakers; they had the enormous responsibility of cooking it in large wood-burning ovens, working extensively hours and hours to guarantee all families their crunchy and fragrant daily bread.
Round or elongated in shape, smooth or woven, weighing half a kilo or much more, the warm and inviting golden bread was consumed only when the head of the family took his place at the table, the only one who was allowed to break its integrity and distribute generously its thick slices.
Getting hungry at the table was therefore a custom, and often keeping the hunger pangs of the little ones in check became a difficult undertaking capable of putting even the patience of the Saints to the test. Donna Maria , a strong and combative mother, knew this well , whose children claimed at any hour of the day a miserable, yet vital, piece of bread.
After sleepless nights spent looking for a remedy that would please her children and that would not disrespect their tireless father, Donna Maria had an intuition: “I will feed them with bread without giving them bread”. Early in the morning she kneaded the usual amount of water, flour and salt, then she added a little more, just enough to give life to the youngest son of bread: the tarallino .
With her gnarled and minute fingers she created small rolls of dough, cut them into pieces a few centimeters long which she closed in a circular shape. They weren’t all the same, but they looked inviting, they had the heart and flavor of home-baked bread, and smelled of freshly ground wheat.
In a short time, the word spread about Donna Maria’s intuition and so the master bakers found themselves baking, in addition to the bread, those curious scraps of pasta that were so popular among young and old people. The men ate them during the tiring hours of work in the fields to restore their tired bodies; the children tasted them among the school desks and on the improvised football clay pitches; women savored them during short and well-deserved breaks from housework and embroidery.
Without knowing it, Donna Maria had created what over the centuries would become the undisputed symbol of Apulian gastronomic culture; the ancestor of today’s Apulian tarallino, whose taste has now been enhanced by the addition of extra virgin olive oil and white wine .
Its taste is a hymn to simplicity and genuine flavors; its round shape, similar to that of the maternal navel, is a hymn to love: in fact nothing else can suggest to the mind if not the arms of Donna Maria who in love encircles her children who are no longer hungry.