For our series of “Food Stories Behind Bars”
we are in the prison of Catanzaro, the Ugo Caridi prison,
headquarters of the pastry shop from which the inmate Fabio Valenti He has made
the “DolciCReati” recipe book.
A man behind bars. A life sentence. Sweets as a daily activity. A recipe book.
The story of Francesco Fabio Valenti, detained in the Catanzaro Prison, who learned pastry following the famous Luca Montersino.
A book as a model and example of good self-educational practices.
A narrative in which all the factors necessary for the social reintegration of those without personal freedom are creatively mixed.
A prison management constitutionally oriented to support and promote the growth of the sense of individual and collective responsibility of the restricted.
A pastry laboratory, which is also a writing and reading laboratory, and the preface of a personality like that of Luca Montersino, an internationally renowned pastry chef, proof of an interaction between the prison and civil society.
Authorization, by way of exception, to take photographs inside the prison
The collaboration of volunteer teachers and prison police officers as an essential part of the compositional procedure of the author, between craftsmanship and art.
These are just some of the main ingredients for the creation of the tastiest “sweet (c) crime”: Article 27 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic.
On a morning a few days ago, inside the theater room of the Prison of Catanzaro, the recipe book was presented “Sweet (c) crimes”, made by the inmate Francesco Fabio Valenti and published by the publishing house City of the Sun Editions.
The initiative was held in collaboration with the Criminal Chambers of Catanzaro, also in the presence of the National Guarantor for the rights of prisoners, Mauro Palma, who recalled that a principle to keep in mind when dealing with prison, is that the ‘criminal execution, while having the duty to serve the sentence, must be more and more similar to the life that takes place outside:
“Because only in this way can the prisoner be guided, once outside, to a positive insertion. Prison in Italy has many problems. From crowding to many other issues.
However, it also has many resources, the first of which lies in those who work there, in the entire staff. Which in my opinion should be better exploited.
The second resource is the territory and the network that is created between those who are inside and those who can propose projects from outside to help the reintegration process ”.
To underline the importance of this precious result, was the director of the Prison of Catanzaro, Dr. Angela Paravati, praising the path taken by the inmates, with the establishment of a pastry shop and remembering the work:
“Of a particular prisoner who has managed, over the years, to become an expert pastry chef. So much so that he wanted to make a recipe book. Helped in our reading and writing laboratory by Professor De Cumis and above all by Doctor Ilaria Tirinato, who wanted to bet on this book and oversaw its realization ”.
The book is very special, it is not the usual recipe book.
Just think of the author.
A man who has been in prison for 25 years, with a life sentence to serve.
A strong passion and skill in the creation of sweets, with an artistic talent in the creation of recipe drawings.
A great desire to group his recipes in a book, and a brilliant idea to link each dessert to an article of the penal code.
A sort of superstitious irony, a bit to get away from what was his previous life. And a little bit to turn what were crimes into something positive.
The role of the director was fundamental for practical activities:
- the authorization to take photographs within the High Security Institute of all the individual steps of the recipes.
- the continuous use of the pastry shop
- the obtaining of the preface by a well-known television personality of international fame, Luca Montersino. Pastry chef from whom Fabio has drawn all his experience.
A book written by a lifer, but made thanks to the work of many, including internal staff and prisoners.
A real example of what Article 27 of the Constitution requires for the rehabilitation and rehabilitation of these prisoners.
First of all, thereafterword is by Professor Nicola Siciliani De Cumis, master of the laboratory and also “teacher of life” with his teachings on the fact that you can write not only with words but also with sweets, with cribs and with all the activities that take place.
The cover photo depicts two dolls, Dolcino and Dolcetta, made in the internal tailoring workshop by the two inmates Antimo and Agostino.
The preface, as mentioned, is written by the famous Luca Montersino, who approached this world on this occasion, recalling between his lines:
“To have always been not very tolerant of those who have committed serious things. I’ve always thought: would I ever be able to forgive a person who may have touched my family? “.
Èd is the request for his contribution to the book that arouses his curiosity towards an inmate
“Who wants to cling to a profession to fill the long days inside a prison.
I have read the recipes and descriptions, and it appears that he was trained on my lessons. This makes me very happy and I must say that I never imagined being useful in the life of a prisoner.
Thanks to Fabio I approached a world that was unknown to me ”.
Who is this author, an experienced pastry chef, trained on Montersino’s books?
Fabio Valenti was born in Alessandria della Rocca (Agrigento) and is 50 years old, he had ten years of hard isolation and, after having traveled to various prisons, is now serving the “strong” (and contrary to the Constitution) life sentence of the “End of sentence never” in the Ugo Caridi prison in Catanzaro directed by Angela Paravati.
“I started to recreate desserts by making pastries between the stoves and flours. I wanted to try to feel those perfumes that hadn’t belonged to me for a long time. They were the smells of the oven in front of Dad’s shop. Perfumes that told me of another life that seemed to me lost forever and I desperately wanted to go back, even for a few moments, to what I had left ”.
Fabio built the scales to work for himself, the molds for the babas, and obtained the almond flour by grating them one by one on a perforated tuna box, confirming that in life you only need to want things deeply to be able to get them. Even a pastry shop in a prison.
Fabio learned the art from the “pastry teacher” Luca Montersino of whom he followed all the television broadcasts, he learned the art, trying to make it his own:
“I recreated the desserts without forgetting the crimes that brought pain in my life to which I wanted to give a new meaning. And so I tried to mess around and mix not only flours and ingredients, but also sensations and bits of days lived… al fresco “.
And so, after using a double high pan as his first oven in prison, as he himself tells it, while a small wooden rod acted as a scale, Fabio came almost as a joke to the book.
“Born as a bet with myself”.
And each of the 50 recipes is associated with specific offenses of the Criminal Code.
Profiteroles with criminal association (Article 416 of the Italian Penal Code), chocolates with slander (Article 368 of the Italian Penal Code), fishing bags with personal aiding and abetting (Article 378 of the Italian Penal Code) and cantucci to abuse of office (Article 378 of the Penal Code). .323 of the Criminal Code) …
The idea, suggested by the same inmates who acted as consultants on the sidelines of Valenti and perfected by the curator of the volume, as explained by laboratory professor De Cumis:
“Aims to convert the crimes of the code into confectionery crimes. As if to say to the reader: my companions and I are aware of the realities that have concerned us, to the point of transforming what has been into something to distance ourselves from with serenity and irony.
A light book, where lightness is to be understood as an antidote to the petrification of feelings “.
And beyond the sweet recipes, this book wants to communicate the strong and profound work of people who, at the cost of sacrifices, take the responsibility of making sense of the penalties, and a practical realization of the provisions of the Constitution.
A job that is being carried out in an excellent way, also through eggs, flour and sponge cake, at Ugo Caridi, a prison with 700 inmates and a grandiose pastry shop.