Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Here's how one of yesterday's polpettone from the butcher looked after I'd cooked it tonight and you can also see how I chose to present it. One was quite enough for a cosy supper for two [I have frozen the other one].
Note to my students: "looked after I'd [ = "had"] cooked it" - the meaning is I cooked it first, then this is how it looked!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Here's what I got there for 40 € :
I have made arancini but in my opinion the experts can make them better and that is generally my philosophy about ready-prepared food: make what you know will turn out well at home but buy what can be prepared better professionally. I would guess that this is the philosophy of most Italians, too. Why make a mess egging and breading escalopes yourself if a butcher will do it freshly on the premises and make a neater job of it? Now, you may be wondering about the "thingies" at the back right of the first picture and so was I ! I asked the butcher if they had a name and he said they were "sort of polpettone" [big meatballs] of pork mince encased in very thin beef fillet. When I cook one I will let you know how it tastes!
I am out of touch with UK prices by now, but wherever you are, I would be interested to know whether you think this was a "good haul" for my 40 euros!
According to survey results published today, you can forget the sushi bars that have become popular all over Italy in recent years because pasta is still the number one food preference here. The percentage of those who eat meat often has increased by almost half since 2007 but strangely the popularity of pizza is decreasing. 77.7% of Italians taking part in the survey said they still buy local specialities, choosing cheeses, salami, oil, bread and wine, in that order. Consumption of liqueurs is down [but I don't think these statistics take into account those made at home, which reminds me, it's about time I got my own little distillery going again!] Wine production is lower than in 2007 because of climactic factors. Consumption of mozzarella di bufala is up in Italy, despite recent problems. Well done, the Italians, for supporting, on the whole, their own, beloved food produced in the time-honoured way.
By the way, I am still awaiting the plumber-electrician man - pazienza!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Last night's photo is of a perfectly formed lemon frutto di Martorana made from almond paste. It was given to me in its pretty little bucket as an Easter pensiero by a friend and nothing could have delighted me more.
[I was going to put this on as an update to the previous post but then decided it would take me half the night to rejiggle the spacing if I added another photo to it!]
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For 4 days there were no ferries to the Isole Eolie [services are reported to have recommenced today] and phone lines and electric cables were down in Agrigento. In Palermo a tree fell onto the balconies of a block of flats, an old, uninhabited block just gave up the ghost and crumbled into the ground and trees also fell onto car parks. In Acireale a publicity placard fell onto 4 cars and a motorbike. I am happy to report that I have read of no injuries or fatalities.
Already feeling cold and grumpy, my mood was not helped by the fact that I woke up this morning to find – you guessed it! – no running water. I had not phoned the Comune to order any on Friday as a lorry-load had arrived , to my surprise, on Thursday. [They must have been filling up the cisterns before the holiday.] Once we have a refill, we are usually all right for 9 – 10 days. I have no idea why the supply dried up so soon this time and did not appreciate it when my buzzer sounded at 8am and the angry voice of a co-tenant yelled, “Why can’t we have a little cooperation over the water supply in this block?” [I don’t think the lady was angry at me so much as at the situation, but I am not at my sunny best at 8 am, reader.] I calmly agreed that cooperation would be a fine thing and explained why I had not called the Comune on Friday. I added that I would not be able to do anything about the situation today as I was about to go to work and would be there until late. The lady then said that she would call the Comune herself. This evening I walked stiffly back home, looking forward to a hot shower though without much hope. But - wonders truly never cease – when I tried the taps, out flowed pure, beautiful water! In these circumstances, reader, you just utter a “thank you” to the neighbour, the Comune or whoever wrought this miracle, get in the shower fast and enjoy it!
For the past 4 days I have had no lighting in my [long] hallway as I can only just reach the goddamn light bulbs to change them, even from a ladder. I can’t get a firm grip on them and the fittings just go round and round, as if they were having a fairground ride. So – OK, I admit I’m scared of total darkness – I have had the bathroom light on overnight so that I can at least see the hallway. But now that has failed too [ no, I can’t reach it] and I am generally rather pissed off. Or I was, until dear Raffaele the hairdresser said he would come over and change the bulbs for me! I haven’t accepted the offer as I couldn’t get back from work between classes today, but it was a kind thought. I am being a very bad feminist here!! [Are you cheering, James?]
Amid all this doom and gloom [I know it’s trivial but it isn’t when you have no one you can take for granted] I was immensely cheered in the Altro Posto at lunchtime as I watched a member of staff chalking the day’s specials onto a board: three times she wrote each item and three times, not content with her handwriting [which seemed perfectly fine to me] she rubbed them off and started again – this despite the fact that they were short-staffed today and she was, for a while, bartender, cook and waitress. I do love Italians and their sense of perfection!
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
There are some Italian dishes that are such a joy to prepare, the process requiring so much care, pazienza and love, that I forget about everything else and am completely happy when engaged in the task.
Thus it was yesterday when I made these polpettine - another recipe from the Cucina del Sole book, which I love because it has instructions like, "Add an egg or 2", "Roll the mixture into balls and then, when they feel right, add seasoning " and , most importantly, "Use your hands" [something which my mother always told me a good cook does]. In other words, the book allows the cook her instinct.
I am the first to admit that my food pictures aren't perfect and, just like my meatballs, they are not of uniform shape and size: I do crop out some of the kitchen paraphernalia and sometimes use the "auto enhance" but I don't otherwise "doctor" them - I wouldn't know how! - and I don't steal them from recipe books, either. I tell it like it is in my kitchen!
The meatballs contain: lean minced beef, chopped capers, basil, garlic, pane grattuggiato [very fine breadcrumbs] plus olive oil and egg to bind . After being browned, they are cooked in a home-made tomato sauce [here my summer's labour is rewarded as I always have some in the freezer] to which red wine and sugar is added, along with a little chilli [I used my chilli spray, which I find excellent]. Chopped almonds form the garnish.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Today [Easter Monday] has been one of the coldest I have experienced in Sicily and we even have hail!! There is not a soul about outside and Simi dragged me back from our walk tonight [she always did have more sense than her mummy!] The Pasquetta [Easter Monday] picnic has been ruined for many but I was intending to have a nice day at home with Simi anyway.
I still feel warm when I think of yesterday's wonderful feast at Chiara's:
To begin with, we had pizzette spoletine [recipe below] served with excellent prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Of course, you cannot have a festa in Italy without pasta, otherwise the revolution would have reached these shores, so here it is, in picture 3, as prepared by one of Chiara's many aunts. Chicken and two lamb dishes followed [the second one pictured being flavoured with delicate, wild thyme from the Cava.] Truly magnificent Sicilian blood oranges were served next and a great deal of discussion as to how they should be cut ensued: Sicilians do not segment their oranges as we do in Britain, but top and tail, then peel them spirally; if some pith remains, it does not matter, for it is thin enough and soft enough to be eaten too. Finally, Chiara had made this delightful ciambello. I think her idea of decorating it with fresh spring flowers is just perfect.
Here is Chiara's recipe for pizza spoletina, just as she copied it down many years ago. [I don't think she used these gargantuan quantities yesterday, though!]
5 kilos strong bread or type 0 flour
1 kilo grated cheese, such as parmesan, pecorino romano and groviera [gruyère]
500 gr strutto or white vegetable fat
a little lievito di casa [bread starter] - and I am assured it must be di casa, not bought yeast.
Make a dough from the the first 4 ingredients, then mix in the lievito. Mix well, knead and leave to rise. Shape into pizze, put on an oiled and floured baking tray and bake for c. 30 mins at 200 C.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Buona Pasqua to all.
EASTER PARADE - FRED ASTAIRE AND JUDY GARLAND
Saturday, March 22, 2008
47% of Italians fear the effects of climate change more than they do an earthquake.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Last week I sent a book about Modica to a friend in the UK and my friend is now having a good laugh at the mistranslations to be found in it. [This happens when publishing houses don't use qualified, mother-tongue translators -professional translators translate into, not from, their mother tongue - and the mechanics of translation may make another post one day.] Among the gems in this tome are the fact that , in the "Syphilis museum" , about which I wrote here, "you can see "butts which cured syphilis" [the "butts" were a version of the French barrels into which mercury was pumped whilst the unfortunate patient sat there] and the news that the town has a district called "Deaf". It does, indeed, have a district called La Sorda ["the Deaf One"] and I live in it! A deaf woman once owned a famous café up here.
Reader, wouldn't you like to live in a town where "butts" cure syphilis, there is a district called "Deaf" and, what is more, people have surnames which translate as Orangeblossom, Honey, Clove, Then-tomorrow [my personal favourite] and April?
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Other regions of Italy are expected to follow suit in ditching the laws which separate dog and owner. I am all for taking my dog nearly everywhere but I do think there is the matter of people with allergies to be considered, especially in enclosed spaces. On the other hand, Franco Zeffirelli has proved himself my hero once again by declaring that he wouldn’t take his dog to La Scala as the sounds might cause pain to his best friend – not a word about the dog’s possible barking upsetting the audience! This being Italy, though, there will have to be all sorts of health and other certificates for the pets and I find it hard to imagine the bureaucracy working smoothly.
In this area there is no problem if you want your dog to sit with you on a café terrace and I can understand the hygiene and safety reasons for the summer beach ban . But I am just dying to take Simi to a chamber concert and we are already planning what she will wear!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Yesterday in the nearby town of Vittoria, a lorry-load of "colombe" was found, by the finanziaria police, to contain colombe all right - only they were "stuffed" with packets of contraband Marlboro cigarettes! I trust they were not bound for my local supermarket.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
On the whole, I think the Sicilians win - don't you?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Now, who better to celebrate with me - and you, I hope - but the gorgeous Patrizio?
PATRIZIO BUANNE - THAT'S AMORE
Friday, March 14, 2008
As Simi and I stroll along, I see that the roadside vegetable-seller has a lorry full of broccoli and artichokes, the latter having gone up in price from €2,50 last week to €3 for a box of 30. [Perhaps they are bigger today.] His chosen music this lunchtime is a traditional Italian dance tune . Simi hears it, catches the mood and looks set to dance!
The food shops won’t close till 1.30 or 2 pm so people are still darting in and out of them to obtain their last-minute essentials and among these will be bread [which will have arrived no more than half an hour ago] cheese and perhaps a nice packet of finely cut speck or prosciutto.
Opposite Mr T’s the children spill out of school and rush over to his store, where, like children everywhere, they stock up on lollipops and sweets – this despite the fact that they are about to partake of at least a three-course lunch. Mr T is ready for them and has his tall son standing at the door trying to keep some semblance of order. He fails, of course, but gives in good-naturedly.
Some of the hospital staff saunter along to one of the cafés, where the name of the pasta dish of the day has been proudly chalked onto a board outside. Most are content with just a plate of this and perhaps some fruit and a coffee. The background music inside is loud but you would not succeed in hearing a single note above the chatter if you were to enter! Today, though, it is warm enough to eat outside and many do. There are three cafés to choose from and all do a roaring trade.
To my delight, at either end of the street palms are being plaited into beautiful trecce [tresses] ready for Sunday and the finished ones are displayed on car bonnets. I have to buy one and the seller says he is “honoured” when I ask if I can take a photograph.
Now we stroll back and it is already quieter, at 1.30. By 2.10 it will seem like a ghost town, for all will be a tavola and many will soon be asleep. But we enjoyed the fun while it lasted.
What’s your world like at 1 pm?
I would hate to have to judge such a tragic case: two young lives have been lost and the lives of all concerned have been ruined. All I can say is that everyone who was watching this news on the screen in the Altro Posto stopped eating and looked stunned. "There but for the grace of god..." seemed to be the mood.
A whole community is recriminating itself and their Mayor blames the tragedy on " indifference and a lack of sensitivity".
Those poor little souls were missing for 20 months and now their mother at least knows what happened to them: but the torment she will suffer for all her remaining days is unimaginable.
Ellee has a post on the missing and the paramount importance of immediate action here.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I did it again today – went to the Post Office, settled myself down for the inevitable wait and realised I was sitting next to someone who is inordinately fascinated by the “turn” numbers coming up on the screen. The last time this happened it was a little old gentleman who kept repeating the numbers and digging his elbow into my ribs, but this time there was another such on my left and a not-so-old little lady on my right. Both shouted out each new ticket number displayed. [I could understand it if they were just excited at the numbers moving along for the service they required, but no, they celebrated with an elbowing for every single one.] Bruised, therefore, but not yet bowed, I rose to be served when my own prodotti postali number appeared on the screen [and to be fair, I was served rather promptly today – only a 20-minute wait]. As I left, what did I see? The same protagonists still sitting there, engaged in the same pastime of “number-yelling” and thoroughly enjoying themselves in the process. Will someone please explain to me the attraction of this occupation, for I am thinking of taking it up?! I am obviously missing something, paying out, as I do, for Rai and Sky, when there is this sort of entertainment to be had for free! It makes you wonder what anyone sees in the internet, really….
It has been a stormy day here and does not promise to be a pleasant night, but it has only, thus far, been the equivalent of a blustery day in Britain at this time of year. [That is not to belittle the “real” storms we get here, which can be very scary indeed, especially for a Brit not used to thunder without lightning or horror-film-style rattling shutters.] Yet my beloved Sicilians are making, well, “heavy weather” of it, going around with their scarves clutched to their mouths again and uttering “Che brutto tempo” [= “What terrible weather”] to all they meet. But I guarantee that they do not have the heating on at home!
Bless my soul, the water lorry arrived without any prompting [on my part, at least] today! I had tried to phone to order a tankful for the condominio on Friday but no one answered early on; then, once I am at work and teaching, I forget about anything else [which is as it should be]; phoned on Saturday but was told I had to phone on Monday; phoned yesterday and yes, the “order” was taken! When I came back at lunchtime today I could tell, by the lack of pressure, that we were going to run out at any minute and was just swearing [rather loudly] to myself when Simi barked: "No, it won't be our load yet", I remonstrated but on her insistence ventured out onto the balcony to check – and there it was, reader; one lovely, big water lorry delivering to us! And I am a lady who didn’t believe in miracles….
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Sentence 5 on page 123 quotes Emma herself, writing of Sir William Hamilton:
"He has no diners, but what I can be of the party."
She goes on:
"Nobody comes without they are civil to me; we have always good company. "
Now Fraser takes up the narrative:
Note to my students : the first two sentences quoted from the book are written in an 18th century English style which you should not copy!
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Don't worry if you don't understand Italian - just enjoy. And ladies, enjoy Luca Zingaretti, too!
Grazie al mio studente Luca.
To my students: in this case the phrasal verb "put [someone] on to [something]" means "tell someone about something."
IL TRENO MUSEO MODICA-RAGUSA
As we strolled back this morning there were artichokes being sold by the roadside everywhere, for it is coming up to Easter and that is artichoke-barbecuing time here. How could I continue to feel low in a land where I can buy 30 carciofi for €2,50?
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
the shower 's lost
For want of a shower
her movement 's lost*
For the want of movement
the teacher is lost
For the want of their teacher
the students are lost
For the want of the students
new linguists are lost
For the want of new linguists
For want of diplomacy
the peace hopes are lost
For want of the peace hopes
the whole world is lost
- and all for the want of a few drops of water in one bloody cistern in Sicily! Comune di Modica, please get your act together!
*I am arthritic and can hardly move unless I have a hot shower in the morning!
Ai miei studenti: Sto scherzando : Io non mi prendo sul serio così e non mi faccio l'illusione di essere tanto importante! La poesia sopra è una parodia di questo.
Well, folks, when things are like this, there is only one thing a girl can do: eat some comforting risotto, have a g&t, then go to bed and hug her doggie! [Simi agrees and has just pointed out that that's three things!]
Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Mobile [which also serves as an alarm clock].
List of phone numbers of the “army of men” [all neighbours] who have instructed me not to hesitate to call them if I am disturbed like this again. [Not that the numbers aren’t keyed in; it’s just that in an emergency it can be as quick to look at a piece of paper and dial a number as to find it in the rubrica.] Mine is the last generation that can remember not having a mobile and it does make me feel more secure at night; there was always the fear, before, that someone intent on evil could cut the landline wires.
Foot cream. [Well, where else can you put it on but sitting on the bed? If you apply it in the bathroom you will slip on the way to the bedroom!]
Mineral water in one of those carafes with a conical thingie in the middle for ice. [You’re either a night-time drinker or you’re not and I always have been, though I suspect all of you would be during a Sicilian summer! In Britain I’d have the mineral water there but the ice wouldn’t be necessary.]
Asthma inhaler [which I rarely need to use since coming here].
Reading matter and one of those mini-lights you can clip to the book [for having even a bedside lamp on during the summer just makes it hotter].
A notebook for blog inspiration that comes in the night [as it will] and for shopping list additions I think of at 3 am!
A large torch in case of an electricity cut or – heaven forbid – an earthquake. [Regular readers may recall that I put the last early hours tremor down to amorous activity in the flat above!]
Handbag on the floor: a girl may have to do emergency make-up repairs during the night sometimes, you know and it is also there in case I have to scarper because of a quake. I’ve a pair of pull-on trousers and a top nearby for the same reason and also in case the water lorry turns up at an unearthly hour [it did so at 06.50 once] and we have to go down to sign.
In summer I rig up a fan by the bed but usually finish the night off on the sofa in the lounge, dozing under the air conditioner. [A student told me the other day that he sleeps on the floor in summer but I would surely bash my head on the tiles and be no more if I tried that.]
What’s your bedside list?
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Per i miei studenti - and for all in the Welsh diaspora who feel a little nostalgic today.
HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY!