... this afternoon 15 or so fortunate people were served a sumptuous feast worthy of the Prince of Salina himself. James and I were lucky enough to have been invited by the hostess, my dear friend Annunziata.
Let me describe the atmosphere: as we arrive, at around 11.30 am., we see a table covered in white linen set up in a cool courtyard area. Grandchildren are there, crawling along the tablecloth towards us and demanding cuddles from these new visitors. We happily oblige and no one worries about the state of the tablecloth subsequently! Then our host offers us a walk around the outside of the property and off we go, grandchild insisting on holding the hands of her newly found zia and zio. Unfortunately I cannot complete the circuit due to my ankle problem, but no one minds when I amble back to the little courtyard on my own. Other guests have arrived during this interval and all greet me, and James, too, when he returns from his expedition; some wander straight outside again, where they enjoy the rolling countryside before us, whilst the women tend to gather in the kitchen, each offering advice about the dishes which are now being cooked in earnest. The aroma from these now makes us both so hungry that we nearly collapse!
Finally, at 1.30 pm., we are all gathered a tavola and the main dishes are triumphantly brought in: there is pollo ripieno [ a famous Sicilian dish of boned chicken stuffed with minced chicken, veal, pork, pecorino cheese and all sorts of other wonderful flavourings], a dish of beautifully cooked rice and a salad of home-grown, organic greens. Just as we feel replete, our hostess brings two dishes of bollito [boiled, mixed meats in a tomato sauce] "just to soak up the rest of the rice", she says. It tastes of lovingly prepared food, of long-ago days when you felt cherished and looked after, and, above all, of homeliness in the best sense of the word.
A little pause ensues whilst we sup the wine that tastes of Sicily and the sun and then out come the dolci [sweet dishes] that we have all brought, among them what I can best describe as Sicilian nut clusters, called brutte ma buone ["ugly but beautiful"]. I must say I found nothing ugly in them and they certainly had a beautiful taste!
Just as poor James was thinking, "This must be the end" [for we had had coffee by now] there appeared dishes of the sweetest apricots either of us had ever partaken of anywhere, a similar dish of plums and mounds of the juiciest watermelon you ever saw!
Even I was thinking, "This must be the end" at this point, but a final delight came in the form of "Giovanella's cake" and I have to tell you it was quite a cake; its deliciousness remains with me as I write.
Oh - I almost forgot! The dessert wine served was an excellent moscato di Noto, which partnered the lovely Sicilian almonds perfectly. James turned out to be very partial to both!
The most amusing part of the day for me - the antics of the grandchildren apart - was our host's demonstration of how votes are counted in Sicily [for the run-off vote between left and right mayoral candidates takes place in Modica today and tomorrow]: "Well", said he, throwing a slice of bread onto a plate, "that's 2 votes". [Another slice then landed on the plate.] "That's 6 and if you turn your back for a moment that's 8!" I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions, reader, but maybe there's veritas in the old Moscato!