Sicilian Soul Food: Part II Aunties in the kitchen!

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).

Zia Tanina and Zia Maria (photo by John Urbano)

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.

Blurrrrr…action in the kitchen. A whir of activity!

Zia Tanina’s beautiful  hands. The pasta you see is called “cavatti”, made by hand, not with the rolling pin. (photo by Rick Clark)

Zia Maria makes perfect bread loaves with her experienced hands.

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.

Zia Tanina holds the sesame covered bread fresh from the oven.

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!

Cousin Rosetta does the finishing touches on the fabruscie.

Cousin Ignazio does the honors and takes the fabruscie out of the oven!

Fabruscie: a work of art! (wish I had a larger image of this one!)

4 Responses to “Sicilian Soul Food: Part II Aunties in the kitchen!”

  1. miatagrrl Says:

    Mmmmm…. I am so hungry now!

    – Tina


  2. marykay Says:

    Just now catching up on the blogs after my blissful “gygy Camp12” for 18. I’ve always steered clear of the kitchen, but had just read Part One on way to airport so I did have 2 fun mornings with my honky-tonk music blaring for the grandchildren to arrive and grab fresh cut-up fruit and peanut butter jelly…it won’t make the same INDELIBLE memories for them, but they were cheerfuly amused in the moment. Thanks for the nurturing nudge.


    • frangallo Says:

      hi marykay, i am sure you are making indelible memories for you grandchildren every time you talk to them and with everything you do! love imagining you listening to your honky-tonk music and making those peanut butter jelly sandwiches.


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