Friday, April 28, 2006


Tuesday was the "Liberation Day" holiday here and dog Simi and I were invited to friends Gina and Carlo's house in the country. [Nearly everyone here has 2 or 3 houses to live in - often one in town, one in the country and one at the sea; this would be considered the height of luxury in the UK and I try not to be envious!] It was kind of them to invite Simi too, as she is not the sort of dog who can be left outside [as a lot of dogs are in Italy] or, indeed, left out of any activity! So she was allowed in the house and behaved very well.

We had a fine time in the open air when we were not eating and I think Simi had about 12 walks along the nearby lane!

Gina and Carlo's daughters, one of whom is studying at Catania University whilst the other is completing high school - imagine, they were such little girls when I first met them in 1992! - along with Carlo's elderly parents and some other friends were there, too. Carlo's mother energetically swept the house out and did a lot of the cooking, putting me to shame!

For lunch we had:
pasta with tomato sauce
salad and skinned, roasted and dressed green peppers
roasted veal and pancetta
barbecued artichokes and sausage

I love the way the Sicilians prepare artichokes: I am a reasonably good cook but I am hopeless with carciofi: I end up with nothing when I try to prepare them! [But at least here you can buy the hearts frozen, if all else fails, which you can't in Britain.] On Tuesday I watched as Gina's friend prepared them: they were washed and the bottoms cut off, then they were halved and cooked very well indeed on the stone barbecue outside. Then they were sprinkled with olive oil, seasalt and parsley. You just tear off the leaves and suck the juices, discarding the leaves afterwards. [I have also eaten them here in this way when they have been left whole and cooked in a wood-burning oven.] The taste is wonderful and the cooked vegetables look divine.

The lunch was completed with an out-of-this-world strawberry cake that Gina had made, a torta al miele [honey cake] that I had made, "dolci", lovely little cakes from Cappello, a superb pasticceria in Modica and rounded off with Limoncello [of course], Asti [the cork hit me, which according to Gina's friend, means that I will get married soon!!] and a chocolate and chilli pepper liqueur from Cappello. I hadn't tried the latter before, though I did know that the "marriage"of chocolate and chilli works and is very fashionable. Served cold, the liqueur was very good. [Modica is famous for the production of chocolate and you can get all sorts of unusual flavours here, though the chocolate is strong for British tastes. Recently the town has hosted the prestigious "Eurochocolate Festival", which I hope will help to make Modican chocolate better known elsewhere in the world, as it deserves to be.]

- A glorious meal, a relaxing day and a good time was had by all - and it seems there is hope for my ailing love-life!

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