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Flavour of a play by penelope Volinia

Photo by Giulietta Vacis (@giuliettavacis)

Winter Season 2019/20

After graduating in Product Design and Multimedia I went back to my hometown while I was searching for an internship. I was excited, and a bit stressed too, to find something new. But in the meantime I wanted to experiment and do something creative and fun where I was. And I had the most magnificent place to do it. I had my theater. Or at least what I call so. I started to attend theater laboratory while I was in high school and then I worked with them on three different plays, becoming part of the family that was growing. And It became a second, important family for me. With wide arms for welcoming and free rooms for creating.

FerraraOff is located in what once was a garage for trucks. With an industrial roof, it has a small office, a garage for storage and two big square rooms: the Black Room, the theater, and the White Room, the foyer. It opened as a theater in 2014. The same year I was lucky enough to get to know the place and quickly started to hang around it. In 2017 there were major works at the building, after some big problems caused by strong rain. And they eventually built a small kitchen in a part of the garage.

Between January and February 2020 I had the possibility to experiment in the theater’s kitchen, preparing dinner for the company after the Saturday play or lunches during the rehearsal. So after my graduation in October 2019 I decided to go back and try to work on the next step. Work on dinner related to the play of the night. I tried. At first it was quite a disaster, at least for me. Then it got better. And then I had to leave for the internship.

46 bites

The first was a 46 bites dinner. The guests are usually the actors of the play and the team of the theater, usually around 10-12 people. Saturday 16th of november, the roman actor Claudio Morici was going to play 46 tentativi di lettere a mio figlio (46 attempts of letter to my son). I decided to prepare 46 bites for every guest, divided in 5 courses that resemble 5 stages of life. And all of it was vegetarian mostly from local farmers and producers. Appetizers were simple food that we usually ate as kids: vegetables puree, crackers, kids’ cheese. The first course was all about traditional dishes that we could eat at our grandma’s house in Ferrara: broth, cappellacci, risotto, (lentils) ragu, pappa al pomodoro. The second course was formed by vegetables with a twist. The desserts were all with a booze and the last courses were infused teas and chamomile. The guests were intrigued and curious but also tired after an intense day of work at the theater. For being the first time both for me and for the theater, I think it all went quite well but we did not reach the herbal infusion, rather they preferred some amaros.


The week after, on the 24th of november there was an improvisation show that staged the most precious memories of the spectators gathered before entering the hall. So I asked the crew composed by four women, what were the flavors that they associate with autumn. They reply with pumpkin, chestnut, broth and castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour that can be made with or without sugar. For them I prepared castagnaccio with rosemary, baked pumpkin with autumnal seasoning. I did not go too crazy mainly because during the week I was attending a workshop in another city. But then I got creative.

Little women. A dinner for the company that evolved into a feast for the audience.

For the next saturdays before Christmas the actress Gloria Giacopini read Little women in three episodes. So I decided, for the first dinner together, to read the novel myself and registered all the food that was mentioned in it and cooked them for dinner after the play. I baked Anna’s turnovers with cheese and apples and with potatoes and sourcream. Then to resemble the common snack of bread and butter I bake a pull-apart very rich bread layered with herb butter. In a letter written from Amy to the father she mentions buckwheat porridge, so I baked crackers made from buckwheat porridge that were paired with pumpkin puree mentioned in the sisters’ journal. For dessert I prepare Meg’s Blancmange, the traditional english bread pudding and a pumpkin cake mentioned in the section dedicated to pumpkin in the sisters’ journal. 

Gloria, the actress, and Giulietta, the director really liked the idea of the food taken from the book and they proposed to me, for the last episodes that it was going to be very close to Christmas, to prepare some of this food for the audience. 

For the 21st of December I prepared five different finger foods that I was going to serve to the audience during the reading of the last episode. There were: apple and cheddar turnover, potatoes turnover, pull-apart bread, buckwheat crackers with pumpkin puree and pumpkin cake. At the end of the play we all gathered together on the stage to celebrate Christmas with white wine, Panettone, Blancmange and Bread pudding. It was quite a success and the feedback was really positive. 

Now, after my internship in Lithuania and the quarantine I will probably go back to Ferrara. I feel the need to work on a project on a long term. And I will probably take over again at the theater kitchen. I am curious and elettrify of what will come.


Thank you to Penelope Volinia for sharing this with us!

Follow her adventures: @vol_pe

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