Legend tells that long ago the inhabitants of Putignano were saved from yet another Saracen raid by pretending to be sick with a strange illness that the Saracens were convinced was highly contagious and thus quickly fled the country. The ancestors of the current population of Putignano, in Bari in southeastern Italy, tricked the invaders by sprinkling their bodies with a powder. This powder was nothing more than a flour called farinella.Farinella, now as then, is essentially composed of a flour of crushed chickpeas and roasted barley. The origins are ancient and rooted in the territory, to the point that over time the flour has also been linked to the local carnival, one of the oldest in Italy, becoming the name of the mask that is the symbol of the Carnival fashion shows that are equally ancient. In the past, farinella was primarily used in rural area as the only meal of the busy farmers until sunset, eaten during the hard work in the fields, and was carried around the waist in a canvas bag, called a ‘u volz.’ Initially it was eaten as a powder, simply mixed with water, oil or salt, or accompanied by fresh or dried figs depending on the season, or with what additional ingredients could spontaneously provide, such as herbs, wild onions, or olives. Later, when the recipes of the masters of the kitchen arrived in the 1700s, farinella was also used by the lords and ladies of a higher class: au naturale on a pasta with sauce, on well-seasoned vegetables, with boiled potatoes or with seasonal fruit, and even as a dessert by mixing it with sugar. Today this tasty product continues to be relatively unknown even a few kilometers from Putignano, and the memory of this food is kept alive more by the Carnival mask than by its consumption.
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.