Social climber: Amarena has died at an unspecified age. Born in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio, e Molise, the Marsican brown bear was murdered in San Sabastiano Dei Marsi on the evening of September 1, 2023.
She loved cherries. In Abruzzo where she spent most of her life the local cultivar is the Raiano; a kind of Prunus cerasus or sour cherry, cousin of the more well known Morello. It was in a Raiano tree that she’d make her public debut. There, with her back legs dangling from the tree’s lower-most branches, Amarena was first spotted by non-ursine residents feasting on the glossy fruits by the fuzzy mitfulls. Her eyesight wasn’t great but her sense of smell was Latourian. Using her nose as her guide, Amarena would seek out the darkest cherries in which the conversion of cellulose and pectin into glucose and fructose were most complete. Funny, then, that she wasn’t named Raiano. The Amarena cherry, although also of the P. cerasus species, grows a thigh’s length away on the Italian map. First cultivated in Bologna and Modena in the mid 1920s, Amarena cherries are almost exclusively sold in sweetened syrups and preserves. If Brillat-Savarin is to be taken at his word that we are that which we eat, then Amarena, though not herself full of Amarene, was from all accounts, an absolute sweetie.
The specialized nature of her palate was a trait she’d pass on to at least one of her cubs. In November of 2022, her son, Juan Carrito, made national headlines for breaking and entering a Pasticceria, consuming several hundred cookies over the course of a single night.* Park Rangers would deem him ‘troubled’ but not beyond the possibility of rehabilitation.** No charges were pressed although some raised concerns about the availability of breakfast.*** Sadly, Juan would not have the opportunity to follow through with his rehabilitation. In January of 2023, he would lose his life in a highway accident. He was four years old.
In her 1982 Fruit Book, Jane Grigson writes “in a world where seasons of fruit and vegetable have broken down completely, where many are available much of the time, the season of cherries always seems very short, gone before we have made the most of it”. Much too short, also, was the season of Amarena. On the final evening of her life, Amarena had gone to San Sabastiano Dei Marsi to eat from the fruit trees that line its sidewalks. Though comfortable sharing the space with local residents, she had not expected the large number of tourists who’d flocked to the town hoping to catch a glimpse of her and her young. In a panic, she ran disorientedly from the town center. Perhaps her well articulated nose was too filled with the smell of fear to warn her of the danger her eyes couldn’t see. In her efforts to escape the crowd, she’d wandered into a residential backyard where, citing self defense, the property holder fatally shot her.
Amarena is survived by two cubs and roughly 48 other Marsican brown bears. The bears are critically endangered.
Those wishing to raise a toast to Amarena can find a recipe for my take on a drink Joe Bernardi recently told me about. The original recipe is named the ‘Funky Spritz’. This variation is the ‘Fizzy Amarena.’
The Fizzy Amarena
1 tbsp syrup from a jar of Amarena Fabbri
2 shots rosè (I used a Molinara, Corvina, and Rondinella blend rosè from the viticultural zone of Valpolicella in Veneto. It had notes of rosè and a liquid finish. Any rosè will probably do)
2 shots dry prosecco
Combine ingredients in a glass. Add an ice cube or two if you like. Finish with a Fabbri cherry.
Pairs well with 2-300 cookies.