Archive | 12:40 PM

The Mighty Chianina

14 Apr

If you’ve been to Italy, and Tuscany in particular, you’ve no doubt heard of bistecca fiorentina. I remember the first time we ordered one. It was over 15 years ago and we were having dinner in Firenze. Not being much of a carnivore, I was a bit surprised when it arrived at the table –  huge and very, very rare. I was about to ask to have it returned to the kitchen for a bit more grilling when Len and Benita said they’d be happy to eat it as is. And they did. They both said the steak was tender and flavorful. I took their word for it.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Since that time, I have learned more about the steak and its origins. Chianina is one of the oldest and largest breeds of cattle, originating in the Valdichiana, hence its name. The cattle have been raised in the area for over 2200 years and were primarily used as oxen due to their size and strength. Being the tallest and heaviest breed of cattle, a mature bull can weigh over 3000 pounds and can grow to nearly 6 feet tall.

After WWII, machinery replaced these oxen in the fields, and chianina numbers began to dwindle until several breeders worked to bring back the breed. At the end of 2010, there were 47,236 head registered in Italy, of which more than 90% were in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.

For me, there are two other interesting things about them besides their size:
One, they are porcelain white;
Two, you never, ever see them.

Each year, we spend hours driving through the hills of Tuscany. We see the sights that paintings, no matter how good, can never quite duplicate. The hills are filled with farms, vineyards, and acres and acres of growing fruit trees, grains, vegetables, etc. But never, ever, a chianina. Not one.

Until now. Yesterday, I came face to face with some young chianina.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

In color or black and white, they are quite unique.

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Now for sure I don’t think I’ll ever eat a bistecca fiorentina!

©Blogginginitaly.com

©Blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

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