Fellow yogi and friend Jeff once commented that, from reading my blog, he had the impression all I do is practice and teach yoga, give retreats, travel, and eat. Of course, I have these interests and others, but, I must say, food is such a part of the Sicilian culture! In the Sicilian culture, one both eats to live and lives to eat. So, Jeff’s conclusion isn’t far from the truth!
My mom was one of 10 children. Mom said they all had daily “jobs” in meal preparation. One of her jobs was to make soft boiled eggs in the morning. This meant collecting and soft boiling at least 20 eggs! Other meal related “jobs” included making tomato sauce, hand made pasta (cavatti), bread, ricotta cheese, picking, cracking, and roasting almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts, and picking fruit and greens.
Though not wealthy, mom’s parents could provide enough food on the table to feed their family well. This meant there were always less fortunate cousins being sent over to the Licata household at meal time. Relatives who showed up for a hearty meal were never turned away, but celebrated and welcomed to the fold. Mom described her home as very cheerful and lively! There were never less than 15 gathered at the table for every meal. Of course, there was much laughter (her dad was quite funny) and, of course, my Uncle Charlie offered up a steady supply of practical jokes!
Two of my mom’s sisters, Tanina and Maria, cooked for my sisters and me when we went to Sicily three years ago. Zia Tanina, who passed away 5 months after our visit, was well into her 80’s and nimble as a 20 year old. Zia Maria was already 90 and still doing her kitchen magic! She is still alive and well and can be seen in the evening, sitting at her niece’s Bar 2000 in the piazza, having a cup of espresso or a little wine, socializing with the villagers during their evening passeggiata (walk).
The food Zia Tanina and Zia Maria made for us was extraordinary! It was perhaps the unique combination of the love they poured into their cooking, the years and years of their cooking experience, and the very food itself which is superb in quality, kissed by the Sicilian sun, that made each meal exquisite. The sad truth of the matter is that once you have had ONE single tomato grown under the Sicilian sun, every tomato thereafter will disappoint you.
This bread will be cut long ways and drizzled with the family’s deep green olive oil from their own olive orchards, and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper. Sometimes, they make panini using this bread, serving it with fresh ricotta, prosciutto, or roasted artichokes.
After the bread making, the family made fabruscie, a specialty from our home village of Grotte. They are miniature pizzas. One day I will have an outdoor pizza oven just so I can make these specialties!