Thursday, April 30, 2009


... and other quirky views of the kind I like to take:

"Always look up in Sicily", Irma said years ago. Yesterday morning in Ragusa I did and was rewarded with a glimpse of this strange and rather pretty niche outside a private house:

I often find myself wanting to take a picture of some tiny little street here but usually the scene is spoiled by the presence of a whacking great car or several. For once I was lucky:

Finally and quirklessly here is part of the facade of Ragusa's beautiful Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I'm going to a feast at three
Over there, a baby cries
His mother watches helplessly
as over there, her milk dries.

I throw round flour at Hallowe'en,
Over there, the baby dies
and eggs to jollify the scene
while over there, a man sighs.

They pay the farmers set-aside
over here, the wise young guys,
How can this be justified?
Over here, the same old lies.

I make some art of pasta shapes,
over here, with bright pink dyes
while Aid is tied with long, red tapes,
Over there, no lullabies.

Have we even lost our shame?
Over here, averted eyes
Progress - how absurd the claim
when over there, a child dies.

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. Yet scandalously, over fifteen million children die of hunger every year.

Things you can do now to help:

Become aware

Read the information here and here

Visit the BloggerAid - Changing the Face of Famine site and Friends of the WFP site

Support the BloggerAid Cookbook

Write to your elected representatives

Donate if you can

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thank you.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Lunch with Rosa and her family today:

First, there were new potatoes cooked with pancetta and herbs, served with salad, olives and excellent bread

then pasta al forno containing the sweetest, homemade tomato sauce

followed by beautifully cooked veal

and then Albanian cheese. I asked if it had a special name and Rosa replied that it didn't. But when I asked if it was feta, she said it was. Anyway, it was delicious.

For dessert there was fruit and I'd taken along the now famous tiramisù alle fragole.

Many thanks to Rosa and her family for a magnificent feast and a lovely, relaxing day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


It's 20 years today since the funniest lady of them all left us. I still remember the first time I saw Lucy on TV: I was having a tantrum about something and my Dad coaxed, "Come on. Come and watch I Love Lucy with daddy." "Don't like I Love Lucy!" I wailed cooperatively. "Don't be silly", responded my patient Dad: "Everybody loves Lucy." And from the moment I started watching, I was hooked.

Here, hoping to get a part in a film, Lucy joins the Turo grape-treaders. Her comic timing [learned from Buster Keaton] is, as always, perfect:

I Love Lucy [1956]

Did you love Lucy? If so, which episodes / moments were your favourites?

Saturday, April 25, 2009



Eros Ramozzotti - Un'emozione per sempre


... was standing in the supermarket all by himself the other day. Well, I couldn't just leave him there, could I? He'd have been lonely, wouldn't he?

Some of you may remember that I showed him to you before, when I first saw him there. That was around Christmas and I'd resisted buying him all that time. So that makes me a good girl, doesn't it? Besides, he's filled with lovely antipasto preserves.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Not a version of Britain's favourite breakfast sausage although, interestingly, the etymology is connected: records dating back at least 400 years point to an Italian onion stew known as cipollata [the ci is pronounced like a ch and cipolla is the general word for onion]. On high days and holidays, sausages may have been added to the stew [meat was a luxury until quite recently] and "chipolata" is probably a corruption of cipollata.

This afternoon I found these in the supermarket: just onions wrapped in pancetta to resemble sausages [here we can get onions which look like large spring onions] but very effective, and easy to copy at home.

Cooked, I thought they looked rather stunning as part of an antipasti platter. You could use whatever other Italian antipasto food you like or have to hand. [On the left I've got rolled-up slices of Italian lard, which is a refined sort of bacon.]

Buon appetito.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It's poetry on Wednesday this week and, with Professore Antonio Lonardo's kind permission, I am delighted to be able to publish his poem Outsider here, along with my own translation:


Policromia dell’esistenza,
incrollabile empireo
di una vita vissuta
a coniugare costantemente
la forza delle idee
con il turbinìo dei tempi…

Caleidoscopica luce,
venuta dall’Oriente,
ha attraversato i deserti
dei cuori induriti,
scavalcando i muri,
caduti con le ideologie.

Desideroso di vita,
ha baciato, estatico,
le orchidee trasparenti,
fecondate dall’amore
e protese nel tempo
a raggiungere il cielo.

Strabilianti coincidenze,
profeticamente scatenate,
di pericolosi attacchi
miracolosamente superati:
eroismo decretato
dalle masse festanti.

Coraggiosa volontà
d’inginocchiarsi alla storia
e chiedere perdono
di macroscopici errori:
costante paradosso
di tempi ormai superati.

Universale visione,
ha valicato confini contratti,
inchinandosi a qualsiasi terra,
per avvicinare l’umanità
alla radice comune
di un’unica origine.

Incessante torre orante
di visione geo-trascendente
per disincantare i temuti silenzi
di un Dio certamente offeso
da insensati conflitti
scatenati da supposti moventi.

Dolorosa esistenza
del corpo e dello spirito:
assurda miopia di gruppi,
provvidenzialmente sconfitti
da miracolosa resistenza
decantata dalla storia.


A many-coloured existence,
unshakeable empyrean
of a life lived
constantly linking
the intensity of ideas
with the turbulence of the times…

Kaleidoscopic light,
coming from the East,
you crossed the deserts
of hardened hearts,
climbing over walls
felled with their ideologies.

Lover of life,
you kissed, ecstatically,
the lucent orchids,
conceived in love
and reached out in time
whilst seeking heaven.

Astounding coincidences,
prophetically unleashed,
dangerous attacks
miraculously survived:
decreed a hero
by rejoicing crowds.

The courageous will
to kneel before history
and ask forgiveness
for macroscopic errors:
constant paradox
of times now past.

Universal vision,
you crossed agreed boundaries,
bowing in any land,
to bring humanity close
to the common root
of a single origin.

Incessant tower of prayer
of geo-transcendent vision
breaking the fearful silence
of a surely offended God
at senseless conflicts
loosed by so-called “causes”.

A painful existence
of body and of spirit:
the absurd myopia of groups,
providentially defeated
by the miraculous resistance
extolled by history.

From Le Stagioni del Cuore [Modica, 2008]

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


You could be forgiven, reading this blog, for imagining that, apart from the irritations of the water supply and the post office, my life here is an endless round of lunches and festivities. Well, I have my ups and downs like everybody else and, although I am happier now than I ever imagined I could be, I don't have an easy life financially and long-term readers will know that the past year has been marred by a quite scary period of illness.

So it is with great pleasure that I am now able to share with you some good and, for me, very exciting news: if you have been following the almost weekly poetry posts, you will remember that I have been translating some of the work of our Modican poet, Antonio Lonardo. I have now finished translating a new collection and the book is to be published soon. Professore Lonardo is a finalist for the 2009 Premio Internazionale di Poesia "Coluccio Salutati" and is invited to the awards ceremony in Buggiano [Pistoia] on 3rd May. And guess what? I am invited, too! I was delighted to accept the invitation and I am going to read Prof Lonardo's entry in English, after which I will be interviewed in Italian about the process of translation and the special difficulties and joys of translating poetry.

I'm also excited because we are going to Buggiano by train and, although I have previously visited the beautiful city of Messina, this will be my first crossing to the mainland from that port. [I've always flown before.] And if that were not enough to have me almost dancing in my sleep, Buggiano is only about half an hour from Florence so if everything runs to time, I will be able to spend a couple of hours in that glorious city on the way! [I haven't seen it for 13 years and I have missed it.]

I'm not nervous, except about what to wear and getting up onto the stage in my [pink] heels, but please, wish me luck, readers!


Not an Italian, but an Albanian dish to show you tonight for Rosa, whose mission at the moment is to ensure that I eat before going to work in the afternoons, arrived with this today:

I asked her how she made it and she said that you first make a sweet dough and then put it through a pasta machine to end up with something resembling vermicelli. [I have been looking this up and understand that the dish is the same as Greek kataifi, for which you can buy the dough in specialist shops or even make the "angel's hair" by cutting up thawed filo dough very thinly.] Rosa then puts the dough strips in a dish in the oven with butter plus some ground almonds and walnuts and leaves them until they begin to brown. In the meantime, she makes a sugar syrup [approximately 2 cups sugar to 1 of water plus a teasp lemon juice and some ground cinnamon] and, when this is tepid, pours it over the kadaif.

It was delicious and very naughty!


It's been a while since I had a water drama but do not think, dear reader, that the problem is solved! [For newer readers, in this part of town water deliveries are made by lorry and for blocks of flats, it is pumped into a cistern so that all in the building may use the supply. Usually the town council sends the deliveries but every now and then the system breaks down and we have to pay for a private delivery.]

The supply in the condominio ran out at about 4pm yesterday and, like the naive fool I still am, I sat here hourly expecting the other tenants to find the situation as annoying and inconvenient as I did. Admittedly, some of them spend Sundays at their houses in the country or with relatives but surely they would be annoyed when they returned? And surely those who were here would get at least a little annoyed as we approached evening? But no one was heard to swear as they tried to flush a loo or turn a tap on and no one bothered to call anyone else.

Well, I reasoned as I went to bed, they would certainly be fed-up by morning. But still no one so much as mentioned the situation, let alone did anything about it! As I left for work at about 1.15 pm I convinced myself that someone would have phoned the Water Office by the time I got home, but no.... Can I be the only person in the building who minds not having running water?

Yes, I've got a few containers filled with water on the balcony, but apart from the fact that I can't lift one of them, they run out very quickly. I tell you on good authority that it takes 5 litres to flush a loo, at least 3 to do the washing -up [ for one person] and a further 6 to wash a floor to Italian standards!

When I got back at 6 I saw that the capo-condominio had called during the afternoon so I returned the call: "I'm not paying again", said she, "and neither should you. We always pay and the others get away with it. Sono stufata [fed-up]!". All that she says is true but she cannot be quite as stufata as I am because I'd decided I could not manage another night without water.

As I'd taught a private student before calling her it was gone 8pm by this time. So I summoned all my courage and called our normal water lorry driver, a somewhat gruff but kind-hearted fellow and, although he was just going off duty, he agreed to make an immediate private delivery. True to his word, he was at the gate before Simi and I could get downstairs to meet him and, once he'd had a little grumble and I'd done my "Sorry, sorry, thank you, thank you"[ with pretty smile] bit he became quite amiable.

So once again I am 35 euros poorer, once again I will waste my breath trying to get my co-tenants to contribute [I was angry when I heard them all using the water later] but once again, reader, habemus aquam!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I got the giggles when I saw this notice advertising various courses:

Look at the line beginning "Hostess", advertising a course for ground crew and at the spelling of what is meant to be "steward". Di terra means " ground" but a terra can also mean "exhausted".


A friend brought me these cute, dinky grapefruit from her garden today

and lots of other citrus fruit besides!

A lot of people won't eat grapefruit here so often they just go to waste. And I know I keep saying it but there is nothing , absolutely nothing, like the scent and taste of a freshly-picked, Sicilian lemon.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I loved this display of sweet Sicilian carrots, surrounded by young artichokes, on display in a supermarket this morning. - Such a simple, yet effective, idea.


This is for my much-flawed but lovely, flamboyant, generous and above all, kind Dad, who died 36 years ago today. There has not, in all that time, been a day when I have not thought of him and missed him.

Here he is charming the ladies

and on his wedding day:

And here's a song he loved. It was popular not long before he died:

Nat King Cole - This Is All I Ask

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Another recipe from Matthew Fort's Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons proves a success! I found it very easy to throw together and I like the colours and textures of the finished dish.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Hi, folks. Simi here!

There I was, watching TV with my mummy last night - well, really I was watching mummy, as I didn't want to miss it if she got up for walkies or to get some Bonios - when all of a sudden, things got interesting! The news is usually about humans wanting to blow up other humans and of course, we dogs are too intelligent to do that to each other. We just want to live in peace with our humans , be fed, loved and taken for walks!

But as I was saying, last night was different because cuddly Mr Bolton from Sky News started telling us that that cool Mr Obama man over in America-land has at last got a dog. And not before time! It was headline news for the rest of the evening and quite right, too, for what could be more important?!

The dog is called Bo, Mr Bolton said, and it looks like that poodle down the road to me. Bo's got a very big garden to play in, hasn't he? Now they have to train him but they could always send for me! I could tell Bo all about how to dig up lovely - smelling earth [the rose garden would be a nice, smelly place to start, Bo], how to lick faces [for it seems Bo will have lots of important visitors ] and I could even teach him how to ignore words like "Come here", "Stop" and "Naughty" in Italian, for when Mr Berlusconi comes to call.

I have a few words for Bo's chief human, as well: Mr President, Sir, next time you want a summit, tell all the leaders to stay home and get their dogs together instead. They'll agree and sort the world out for you in no time and it would be a lot cheaper, too!

Pace and love,
Simi x woof!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


"The sea - this truth must be confessed - has no generosity. No display of manly qualities - courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness - has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power. " - Joseph Conrad.

While so many of us, including me, were enjoying Easter among friends in warm, dry houses with plenty of food, hopelessness and tragedy were once more making their way towards Sicily, in the form of a twenty-metre boat carrying 321 desperate people [including six children], most of whom were from Somalia.

In possibly the roughest sea we have had this year, the inadequate boat ran aground off Porto Ulisse [Ispica] on Saturday. The Pozzallo Coast Guard and Sea Division of the Financial Police were called to the scene and, working in very difficult conditions, not only saved a child from drowning but managed to bring the boat and its human cargo to shore.

Most of the would-be illegal immigrants were in a pitiful state, suffering from dehydration and hypothermia after a five-day voyage. Some were immediately transferred to hospital, whilst others were taken to Pozzallo for identification purposes. Another group was taken to the Detention Centre at Cassibile. All received the medical treatment that they needed.

Among those taken to various hospitals were at least three of the children and I did hear, though cannot confirm this, that no one has claimed them. If this is true, one can only conjecture at the fear that afflicts their parents, if the latter were, indeed, on the boat, or what dreadful circumstance had led them to entust their children to others on such a dangerous journey if they were not. It is known that some of the group tried to run away once they were brought to safety and I remember from my own teaching of asylum seekers in the UK that some are terrified as soon as they see any sort of uniform. They must have lived through unimaginable horrors.

It is not yet known whether other members of the original group drowned before the boat reached Sicilian waters.

I feel for all in this terrible situation: for the clandestini themselves who would rather die on what they consider a voyage towards hope than stay where they are; for the Italian police and Coast Guard who risk their own lives when they go out to help the stranded boats; for the medical staff and social workers who have to work with and try to identify souls too frightened and traumatised to give the information that is needed; and for the communities that suddenly and involuntarily become "hosts" and feel themselves, rightly or wrongly, to be overwhelmed.

Yet again I realise I am lucky to sleep in my bed tonight.

Monday, April 13, 2009


On this Easter Monday the winds [which rattled the shutters to the extent that I dreamed I was in an episode of the Adams Family last night] are still blowing but we have had less rain and I was invited to another holiday feast at Irma's.

Irma had decided to try a new recipe for a pasta sauce consisting of fresh fava beans, chopped artichokes and wild asparagus sautéed with lemon juice and grated zest plus, at the last minute, a little grated pecorino and parmesan. It was a very refined dish and, I must say, delicious:

Then there was tender lamb, served with oven-cooked potatoes in oil and rosemary:

Next there was grilled sausage and pancetta

and the traditional char-grilled artichokes. [You just tear the leaves off and suck the sublime juices.]

Irma's sister had made this fabulous pear cake. [Keep reading and you'll get to the recipe!]

Then there was fresh fruit salad:

I had made the semifreddo di marrons glacés again. [This time it turned out a little darker. I think I got a bit ingredient-happy adding the cocoa but it was all the better for that]:

A niece of Irma's had made her own scorzette [whole candied peel]:

And finally out came the traditional colomba [dove-shaped cake]. It was, as you see, beautifully wrapped but I wasn't quick enough to photograph the cake before it was scoffed!

Now here's the cake recipe:

Ortensia's Pear Cake

2 or 3 pears, peeled, sliced and left to marinate with 2 teasp sugar while you get the ingredients below ready:

2 eggs
125 gr sugar
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
75 gr 00 flour
75 gr coconut flour [outside Italy, from a health store, I should think]
a pinch of salt
2 dessertsp softened butter
1 medium glass milk
1 envelope yeast [Here we can get special yeast for cakes. In the UK I should think an envelope of easy-blend yeast would do.]

Mix everything together and add the pears. Pour it all onto dampened baking parchment in a fairly shallow, oblong or square tin. Bake for 40 mins at 180 C. Sprinkle with powdered cinnamon.

Grazie, Ortensia!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


We have had, and continue to have, torrential rain, hurricane force winds and fog here for Easter Day but that does not stop the Sicilian festa! Lunch with Gina and her in-laws consisted of:

pasta al forno with salame and ricotta

followed by oven-cooked lamb and potatoes [served with salad].

The desserts began with my favourite gel al limone [recipe here for newer readers],

and continued with fresh fruit salad:

I made the tiramisù alle fragole again, this time decorating it with chocolate flakes as well as strawberries,

then along came this tray of dolci from one of our local pasticcerie:

The green ones on the left were mini-cassate:

Finally, Gina's mother-in-law had made the traditional Easter cassate:

I'm off to make a dessert for tomorrow now!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Linda and I met in a supermarket bar for our weekly gossip this morning and I was delighted when Linda produced from her bag two homemade hot cross buns! She asked the barman / waiter if he minded our consuming them there, along with a cappuccino in her case and a lemon tea in mine and he was most obliging - indeed, interested to observe this strange British custom.

I don't know of many bars or cafés in Britain where you could eat your own food, do you?

Later, in the supermarket, I found raspberries on sale for the first time in Sicily ! I haven't tasted any for four years, so I'm off to enjoy them now.


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