Saturday, March 30, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013


Well, it's not quite egg-shaped but about as near as an orange can get! As I've written before, I love the way that, here, imperfectly-shaped fruit is still sold, if it is good. I'm looking forward to my orange salad this evening:

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Prima ri parrari mastica 'i palori.
Before you speak, chew your words.
- Sicilian proverb

Oh dear, oh dear - it all began so well! Some of you may remember that in November, the then newly elected Governor of Sicily, Rosario Crocetta, announced that he wanted a "committee of intellectuals" to be involved in governing the region. Among those he appointed were the singer and composer Franco Battiato, as Regional Councillor for Culture with Special Responsibility for Tourism and Entertainment, and the scientist Antonino Zichichi as Councillor for Cultural Heritage.

These were popular appointments but, sadly, both men were removed from their posts yesterday, Mr Zichichi mostly for absenteism but also because of policy disagreements with Mr Crocetta and a possible conflict of interests regarding the physicist's son. However, Mr Zichichi may continue to serve the regional government as a consultant.

It is the dismissal of Franco Battiato that has generated the most headlines, as it came as a direct result of comments he made at the European Parliament in Brussels, where he used a very offensive word, particularly to women, to describe Italian parliamentarians who were, he said, "ready to do anything". The comments caused shock all over Italy and Mr Crocetta clearly felt that an apology was not enough. Mr Battiato said that he had not been referring to the current parliament but the remarks have been interpreted as an insult to the institution itself and, therefore, to democracy.  

Personally, I don't think Mr Crocetta had an alternative but perhaps the problem with a "committee of intellectuals" is that its members may be too intelligent for politics?

"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."
Franco Battiato - La canzone dell'amore perduto

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


"You're going to cook sausages with apples and almonds?!!" exclaimed my Sicilian friends with that incredulity which they manifest whenever a mixture of sweet and savoury is proposed [unless the hapless foreigner's intention is to cook coniglio [rabbit] in agrodolce, which for some reason doesn't feature on the "prohibited dishes" list].  Anyway, I made the dish of sausage roasted with apples, almonds, sage and lemon juice and the result was very good.  For those of you in Italy, the recipe is in the March edition of the Conad supermarket chain's free magazine.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I'm feeling nostalgic tonight, so here's a singer who has been a favourite of mine for over 40 years. This version of Lara's Theme makes me cry and cry!

Orietta Berti - Dove non so

Friday, March 22, 2013


Ferrero have brought back the pineapple flavour in their Gran Soleil desserts range. It's OK but why won't they bring the chocolate one back permanently? Come on, guys, it's nearly Easter so what better time could there be?!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013



My favourite - roast artichokes!

It wouldn't have been a Modican lunch without scacce.

There had to be arancini, too!

Did you think there wouldn't be pasta?

And here comes the main course!
Now for a nice siesta......

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


As San Giuseppe's and Father's Day in Italy draws to a close, I think of my own lovely Dad and how he would have loved this portrait of the saint. I've posted the picture before but some of you may not have seen it. The window is in Modica Bassa and the grille across it is only open for a few days around the Feast of San Giuseppe.

San Giuseppe is believed to have saved Sicily from famine and in some towns altars of bread are created in his honour. San Giuseppe is the protector of artisans, carpenters, cabinet-makers, bursars, workmen, lawyers and, of course, fathers everywhere.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Oh, yes, Sicilians love chips although they try to pretend that patatine consumption is a British vice. Chips appear here on and prior to pizza, with arancini,  as side dishes and with just about everything. People tuck into them using cocktail sticks so that everyone will think they are only having a little taste. As I've said many times before, chip calories don't count when you're out so what could be nicer than a plate of antipasti topped with some of the sinful morsels? 

I then had a main course of scaloppine al limone and very good they were, too. My culinary hero, Italy's  "sexy chef" Carlo Cracco, would say that the strawberry was out of place as it was not integral to the dish, but I thought it was pretty:

My companion enjoyed this fresh sausage pizza:

Some of you have already seen the gel al limone but here it is again [without chips!]

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Sorry posting has been light over the past week, folks - I have a very Italian febbre!

Here's a pretty little song from Sanremo 2013. It's all about missing someone:

Simone Cristicchi - Mi manchi

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Often it is the sideshows of great events that are most revealing about the nature of some of those attending them and so it was last night in Rome: As ecclesiastical history unfolded in the rain, spectators' umbrellas were refolded when they were asked to put them down so that everybody in the crowd could have a chance to see the new Pope. Italians can, at times, be among the most disorderly people in the world but at others, they will comply surprisingly quietly with a reasonable request and thus it was in St Peter's Square while the world looked on.

This got me thinking about umbrellas and I remembered that, when I first came here, it was difficult to actually buy one: they are not normally sold in supermarkets as they are in Britain and, if you couldn't run to a designer one, your choice was very limited. Those that were on sale at a reasonable price were either flimsy or had prongs that did not tuck in at the top, making them a menace to those padded raincoats so beloved of Italian women in winter.  Now better specimens are on sale in more shops, though rarely in supermarkets.

I've never really got on with umbrellas, I must admit, preferring a hood or my trusty Cardiffian hat, so when it does rain here I am often asked where my umbrella is.  This is a question which only someone addicted to their car would ask on a windy day for, as every Brit knows, rain and umbrellas do not mix. And when hailstones the size of eggs fall, as they did today in Modica, no umbrella would last very long. [Of course, I was the only person out and about in such weather once again.]

A beach parasol is known as an ombrellone or "big umbrella" and in the summer we were treated to the ombrellone strike. As I wrote then, Simi has her own version:

Earlier, I searched for umbrella quotes but the only one I liked, and which rather fits my mood at the moment, is this:

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.

- Lord Bowen, quoted in Walter Sichel's Sands of Time.

My favourite Sicilian proverb about rain, by the way, is,

Cca çiovi supra ô vagnatu - Here it rains on the person who is already soaked [the implication being that troubles do not come singly, a premise with which I concur].

Does anyone know if there's still an umbrella repair stall in Cardiff Market?

Flanagan and Allen - The Umbrella Man

My favourite film featuring umbrellas is Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and I cry enough to make an umbrella necessary every time!

As it's nearly Easter, here's an umbrella song from Easter Parade:

Finally, here's a bit of inconsequential fun:

Enzo Jannacci - L'ombrello di mio fratello

If it's raining in your life at the moment, I hope a friend with an umbrella comes along soon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Tonight Italy mourns Teresa Mattei, partisan, women's and children's rights campaigner and the last "mother of the Constitution".  

Born in Genova in 1921, Teresa Mattei graduated in Philosophy from the University of Florence and became an antifascist campaigner. During the Second World War she was known as Partigiana Chicchi.  In 1946 she became the youngest woman member of the Assemblea Costituente, the parliamentary chamber charged with drawing up Italy's Constitution, a document which she defended throughout her life.

It was Teresa Mattei who had the idea of making the mimosa blossom the symbol of International Women's Day [8th March] for the simple reason that the flowers are in season in early March and can be obtained at little or no cost. 

Of the potential of women in politics she said,

"Women, in contrast to men, seek knowledge, cooperation and solidarity. They are the bearers of new life. They do not see society as being divided into classes but as a multitude of men and women with the same problems. Women can bring this new spirit into politics, but we have to create the structures that can allow this to happen."

Referring to the Second Prodi Government and its six women ministers, of whom only two had portfolios, she went on to say,

"These poor women can have no influence, because a minister without portfolio is unable to do what a minister with portfolio can, that is, to use a budget to put a plan into action. This is a very serious situation."

I think that last but one sentence is a metaphor for women's powerlessness all over the world.

Teresa Mattei died in Lari [Province of Pisa] today at the age of 92.  I'm glad she saw this 8th March and, as she is laid to rest, the mimosa blooms for her all over Italy.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Regular readers will know that one of my favourite Sicilian desserts is gel al limone and over the weekend I enjoyed it at two fabulous meals to which I was treated. There seems to be a new fashion for thrusting the spoon into it to serve:

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Tonight I'm sad and disappointed in someone so......

Zucchero - Per una delusione in più

Friday, March 08, 2013


Here is a  proverbs quiz for the evening of International Women's Day.  Just match the proverbs and one saying, 1 - 6, with their meanings, a - f:

1.  Essiri comu 'a matri ri Sampietru.

2.  Bona terra e bona mugghieri portanu all'omu beni.

3. Fimmina bona, vali chiù di 'na corona.

4.  L'òmini fanu i fatti: ma su' i fìmmini ca fanu l'òmini.

5.  Na fìmmina, na pàpira e un tammùru fanu succédiri 'a rivoluzioni.

6.  Fìmmini e vôi, di li paisi toi.

Duomo di San Pietro, Modica

a.  A good woman is worth more than a royal crown.

b.  Get women and oxen from your own town.

c.  To be like St Peter's mother [said to have been grasping].

d.  Men make events but women make men.

e.  Good land and a good wife bring a man wellbeing.

f.  A woman, a goose and a drum are enough to start a revolution [a reference to Sicilian history].

To see the answers, highlight the space below:

1c, 2e, 3a, 4d, 5f, 6b.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Sceccu porta e sceccu mancia.
He brings donkey [meat] and eats donkey [meat].
- Sicilian saying  [usually said of someone who brings food  - probably a dessert - to a meal with friends or family and then is the first to eat it!]

Having followed the relevant twitter feeds here, I can't help feeling that Italians have rather enjoyed the UK horse-meat scandal, simply because it proves yet again that we know nothing about food.  How, after all, could we not have detected it over all these years? Only the citizens of a nation where sausages and bacon are eaten in the morning could have such undiscerning tastebuds, the reasoning goes. The French view it all rather differently, as they just can't see what the problem is:  "It's horse-meat - et alors?"

The laughter died down somewhat a couple of weeks ago when the management of a popular international furniture store banned meatballs from its restaurants in Italy and 13 other countries after horse-meat traces had been found in the product in the Czech Republic. Then traces were found in a pack of ready-made lasagne in Verona Province. Though not as nonchalant as their French neighbours, consumers here are scandalised less because the products may contain horse-meat and more because they do not contain the ingredients stated on their packaging or publicity.  But now - oh, no! - traces of horse-meat have been found in the ragù produced by a well-known Italian manufacturer of stock cubes and sauces.  Of course, any Italian woman with any pride makes her own brodo and ragù - or so we are led to believe - but if that were always true the products wouldn't sell, would they?  I do make my own ragù and freeze it in small portions, as you need it as an ingredient in timballi or pasta al forno but will admit I've been tempted, at times, to buy the new small portions of ragù made by this company. I'm glad I didn't!  

Image: WP Clipart

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Sometimes, when the rain outside is announcing its presence noisily as only Sicilian rain can, there are only two answers - ice cream or pizza. As it's too cold tonight even for me to indulge in ice cream, pizza it is. I wonder what's in this one? What do you think?

Monday, March 04, 2013


Many an ESOL teacher will, I'm sure, groan with me when I mention the pronunciation of the -ed past simple or past participle ending. Students here insist on pronouncing the e, so that the -ed is pronounced as a separate syllable, for no one has ever told them that it is only thus pronounced after a t or a d [as in wanted or decided].  Of all past simple or participle forms, the word finished seems to cause the most pronunciation difficulties, with student after student pronouncing it as three separate syllables:  fin-ish-ed.
I have therefore made it my mission in life to teach my modicani students the correct pronunciation of this word and I have taken to yelling, "Music to my ears!" or playing the chimes of Big Ben when they get it right. Nevertheless, my mission seems doomed to failure and, to paraphrase Queen Mary Tudor,

"When I am dead and opened" [I mean op-en-ed] "you shall find finish[e]d lying in my heart."

Saturday, March 02, 2013


At the end of a Welsh-themed week, let's hear a song in Italian from Wales's sweetheart:

Katherine Jenkins - L'amore, sei tu

Friday, March 01, 2013


Over at English Matters, we've got Welshcakes for everybody today and the Welsh ladies looking on were made by some of our youngest students:

I was delighted when a student's mother sent me this perfect St David's Day boutonnière that she had made from fabric:

Now, this is for Welsh people everywhere, for those who wish they were Welsh and for all with a song in their heart. I would also like to dedicate it to the young people of Italy:

Only Boys Aloud - Calon Lân


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