The divination rites of San Giovanni

Sometimes the Catholics come up with some pretty good stuff. For instance, patron saints. San Giovanni is Turin’s patron saint, and yesterday was his holiday, which meant that the whole city got the day off and at night there was a bunch of fireworks. It also meant that all nubile girls could finally find out more about their future marriages. I don’t know about you guys, but I was certainly dying to have a little peak into my future, so on the night of the 23rd, the vigilia di San Giovanni (or Saint John’s Eve) I quickly popped an egg white into a bottle of water and I left it on the balcony overnight.

“What’s all this egg white business, Dittatrice?” Well, I never knew about this before, but apparently divination by egg white, also called oomancy (from Greek oion egg, and manteia prophecy), is a thing and has been a thing for quite some time. This particular version is said to work only on the night before San Giovanni, the 23rd of June, and it’s a actually a pretty complicated process, if I’ve understood correctly. You need a transparent bottle, labels removed and clean on the inside. Now you need to fill it with water from seven different sources (which in Italy shouldn’t be a problem, supermarkets here offer a ridiculously wide range of bottled water, which I guess counts as different sources). Next, you grab an egg from a white hen, you pop the albumen, or egg white, into the water, and you put your bottle on the window sill (with the window open, of course), where you leave it overnight. Next morning you get up at dawn, you check out the shapes your egg white has made in the water, and you interpret those shapes to know more about your future.

Now, seeing that I’m not a Catholic or a nutcase, I found all of this divination business very interesting but also very dubious, so I decided to do an experiment the scientific way: with a control group! I tried the egg-white-in-water experiment on a random night (19th of June), and then again on the designated oomancy night (23rd of June). Behold the results:

19th of June:

san giovanni egg white

At night, ready to do its divination tricks…

san giovanni egg white

…and in the morning.

23rd of June:

san giovanni egg white

This time in an actual bottle, rather than a pint glass…

san giovanni egg white

…and here on the morning of San Giovanni.

Interpretations: my egg white after the 19th of June looked somewhat like a really creepy castle, which might mean that that I’ll marry Vlad the Impaler, or possibly another random Rumanian. Alternatively, it could suggest that my marriage will be rich, but cold and heartless, in which case I’ll probably marry a banker.

However, the morning after the 24th I found something which kind of looked like a little tent with a campfire next to it (not so much from the angle the picture was taken from, but it was there, I swear), which would suggest something quite the opposite: I’ll marry a native American, or in a more general interpretation, my marriage will be poor, but warm. With my career choice I’m inclined to say the latter option is more likely (I’m a teacher at the moment), which implies that this method does in fact only work on Saint John’s Eve!

Unfortunately, no real conclusions can be drawn from my dodgy scientific practice: as you can see I’ve done it all wrong. First mistake: I put too much water in my pint glass/bottle. Apparently you’re only meant to put in a little, and now the egg white got lost in the immense vacuum of single sourced water. And there you have yet another grave error: I used tap water. I couldn’t be bothered finding seven different sources and I never buy bottle water because that’s just stupid. Final error: I didn’t check my egg whites until the sun had been up for at least a couple of hours. I’m not a morning person, what can I say.

Anyway, what with all this prodigal wasting of egg whites, of course I had an egg yolk left that couldn’t go to waste, because whilst egg whites are only good in combination with egg yolks (or as tuiles or meringues, I admit), egg yolks are the delicious gift of some God or other to mankind and we owe them due appreciation. Thankfully I have no problems in getting rid of a left-over yolk: we just use them for a delicious, slap-happy, butt-spanking carbonara! Barbarians, beware: there is only one way to make a good carbonara, and it doesn’t involve cream. You go make a nice dessert with that, it has no business near your pasta. Of course, you can choose to make your carbonara in any way you like, that’s cool, I respect your choices, but you’re wrong and I hate you. Your carbonara will be stupid and dirty. So, now that we’ve settled that matter like reasonable adults, let’s proceed to making this thing, shall we?

carbonara IMG_0898

For 2 hungry hungry hippos, use:

  • enough pasta, you can choose but it has to be long, so spaghetti or trenette or something – use your own judgement for quantities
  • one whole egg and one egg yolk
  • 100 gr of guanciale, which is pork cheek – if you live in a country where guanciale is difficult to come by, or if you’re a student and too skint to get some, use lardons, or even pancetta or bacon that you’ve cut into small pieces
  • some pecorino, about 2 tbsp, plus extra to serve
  • black pepper

*If you want to make this for more people, with each odd person add one egg yolk and with each even person add one egg – so for three people use 2 yolks one egg, for four people use two yolks two eggs, five people use three yolks two eggs et cetera. The other ingredients you can add in normal proportions: 3 people 150 gr guanciale, 4 people 200 gr guanciale et cetera.*

Boil your pasta in water with enough salt. In the meantime, pop your guanciale/bacon/lardons in a frying pan and fry them. No oil necessary, they’ll start leaking out their delicious animal fats in a minute.

Also in the meantime, put your eggs in a large bowl, add some black pepper, some pecorino and mix that bitch up. Leave it until you need it.

When the pasta’s done, strain it in a colander but don’t strain it too much: chuck it back quickly and let it make friends with the guanciale in the frying pan. Mix it well, then add it to the egg in the bowl where you beat the eggs previously. Do not put the egg in the frying pan because you will regret it. If you put the egg in the frying pan with the other ingredients, it’ll cook too much and it’ll become hard-ish. You want the heat of the pasta and guanciale to soak up the egg and make it attach itself to the pasta, but you don’t actually want to cook it any more than that. So you move your pasta, not your egg. Now that you’ve put all your ingredients in the bowl together, mix them well – try to make sure all pasta is covered in a nice layer of egg, whilst the guanciale is spread out evenly. Put it on plates and top it with some more cheese and optionally pepper.

carbonara carbonara carbonara carbonara carbonara carbonara

About La dittatrice

After years of being based in Glasgow, I've recently made a home for myself in Turin, Italy, for the time being, at least. This blog is my captain's log. Here I note down what I did, and what I ate. A story, then a recipe. That's how this here works. Updates on Wednesdays.
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