Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Bisogna adunque essere golpe a conoscere e lacci, e lione a sbigottire e lupi."
"It is nescessary, therefore, to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves."
- Niccolò Machiavelli:  Il Principe

It's been a great week for British humour - unless, that is, you happen to be a Windsor - and it's set me thinking about the differences between Italian and British humour.

Unless you've been living on Mars, you'll know all about the Prince Harry pictures and there have been some headlines and puns worthy of the Bard himself in the British press.  Many Brits have taken Harry to their hearts, regarding him as a bit of a "Jack the lad" who can at least make us laugh and a lot of the menfolk envy him.  Then there is the view that this is a young man who is a serving soldier and if he wants to let off steam in this way on a private holiday, so what?  I can agree with this up to a point but would add that it is not his soldier's salary that allows the young prince to stay in hotel rooms costing £5,000 per night.  You could counter by arguing that he comes from a wealthy family so must have been using his own money and a response to that would depend on your attitude to inherited wealth and privilege. Either way, the prince's security detail are paid for by the British taxpayer so it's not a clear-cut matter of a "private" holiday, as it might have been had the matter involved some vacuous celebrity.  

My Italian friends were surprised when I mentioned the security aspects of the affair as this had not occurred to them and some genuinely thought that the British press [until the "Sun" published the pictures] were "afraid" of the Queen. "Not the Queen but a possible new privacy law", said I and a discussion ensued in which the prince's capers were compared with those of Mr Berlusconi. The Italians felt that the Berlusconi scandals were worse as he held political office whilst I argued that the difference was that Italians could, if they wished, have voted Mr Berlusconi out [I stopped myself from adding, "But you didn't"] whereas it would take more than the franchise to oust the Windsors. 

Italians do get the joke, though and have been giggling along with the rest of us at the facebook pictures of naked soldiers covering up their private parts in ever more ingenious ways as they salute one of their own.  A great deal of Italian humour, you see, is pretty ribald and it is considered quite in order to ridicule a man's virility. On the Saturday and Sunday night chat show Che tempo che fa, genial host Fabio Fazio exchanges banter with comic Luciana Littizetto, who also treats us to a genuinely funny and ironic commentary on the week's news.  Then there will be a little innuendo before la Littizetto tells us that "The only hard thing about Fabio is his knee" or some other such detail which the Italian audience finds hilarious.

I actually rather like la Littizetto, who in February will make a pleasant change from the Belen and Canalis type of glamour girl when she co-presents the Sanremo Song Festival with Fabio Fazio.  That is to say, I like her until the moment when she curls up, legs askew, on Fabio's desk and starts sticking her chewing gum under it.  This is mainly because I have an inborn antipathy to naturally thin women who can curl up on a desk, especially when they also have naturally thin legs.  La Littizetto, when she is not being small and cute, can look just like a neighbour with whom you would compare prices at the supermarket - indeed she plays one in a TV advertisement - and that is part of her charm.  She can act, too.

Che tempo che fa, 19.2.12 - Luciana Littizetto's take on the news [including Sanremo and Belen Rodriguez]

Italians, like the British, have the ability to be self-deprecating and laugh at themselves. [How else could they have put up with some of their awful politicians for so long?]  They can also be extremely ironic and the example that comes to mind is that of Mariastella Gelmini, Minister of Education in the last Berlusconi government.  Not a popular figure with many teachers and students because of swathing cuts she had made in expenditure on education,  in September last year the unfortunate Minister made a gaffe for which she will probably be remembered long after her policies are forgotten: referring to the Abruzzo Gran Sasso Laboratory, where neutrinos that travel at the speed of light were recorded, she said that Italy had contributed to the building of a tunnel between the Gran Sasso and CERN in Switzerland.  Any such tunnel would have had to be 750 km long and of course it didn't exist. The twitter feed filled up with tunnel jokes and the queries of worried parents who no longer felt that they could entrust the education of their precious offspring to one as uninformed as la Gelmini.

The Italian press loved the "Gelmini Tunnel" and it loved the Harry story this week  but you know its journalists are perplexed by the British when they start referring to us as "i sudditi di Sua Maestà"  ["Her Majesty's subjects"] and they were certainly perplexed by this week's lion story!  If you are not from Britain, you may not know that campers near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex reported seeing a lion on the loose on Sunday night and people in the area were advised to stay indoors.  As armed police and helicopters swarmed to the area, did my compatriots go into lockdown mode?  No, they carried on much as usual and continued to go "down the pub".  I couldn't help smiling as the landlady of the nearest pub was interviewed, saying she was "a bit worried" but that her customers were still coming.  That's the kind of reaction that makes you strangely proud to be British!  On this occasion , too, twitter came into its own:  "Essex girl" and her companion "Essex man" are unflattering stereotypes in popular culture [better that you read about them here] so when, within minutes of the "lion" news breaking, a twitter account in the name of "Essex Lion" was opened, the tweeting party went on all night.  This puzzled a lot of my Italian twitter friends and I reflected that, had a lion been on the prowl here, everybody would have barricaded themselves in [elegantly, with good food on the stove and packs of cards to pass the time, it must be said].  As the night wore on and Sunday merged into Monday I think someone must have called Moody's because the poor old lion was downgraded, first to a "big dog", then to a "wildcat" and finally, yesterday, to a domestic cat called "Teddy Bear".  But the British are nothing if not stubborn, as many would-be invaders have found out,  and as I write  this on Wednesday night, there are still folk in Essex who are convinced they saw a lion despite the fact that the police called off their search yesterday morning.

In the Italian press we are "i sudditi di Sua Maestà" again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I owe the inspiration for this recipe to my friend Katia Amore and you can see her Red and Black Rice Salad here.  

My version uses pineapple and grilled red peppers, so I've called it "Palermo Rice Salad" because yellow and red are associated with that city.  I couldn't find the Arlecchino rice that Katia used but I did find some red Thai rice in the supermarket - something, I would add, that I would not have found here when I arrived seven years ago.

This is what I did:

Cook 500 gr red or black rice as directed on the packet then drain it and rinse several times in cold water.  Put it into a serving dish.  Chop 2 sticks celery very finely [Sicilian celery has quite a delicate taste] and add to the rice, along with a cubed, fresh pineapple and about 2 tablesp of its juice.  Drain 2 large, grilled red peppers from a jar and chop them roughly. Add to the dish.  Now chop a handful each of fresh parsley and mint and add.  In another, smaller bowl, mix 6 tablesp olive oil, 1 tablsp white wine vinegar, 1 tablesp honey and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the dressing over the other ingredients and mix well. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.  Add some sprigs of mint to serve.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


As the world mourns Neil Armstrong I suppose the thoughts of many of those of us who are old enough to remember that extraordinary night in 1969 have been wandering back to where we were at the time.  I was in Italy for the first time in my life and have tears streaming down my cheeks right now as I remember the impression the country made on me, even then.  It was a love affair that would last a lifetime. 

But I was in the midst of another love affair too and I confess I was much more interested in snogging my Italian boyfriend than the technological feats being performed by NASA!  We were in Foppolo, in the Italian Alps and, after we'd watched the grainy live pictures, we went out on the balcony to look at the moon.  On TV, this song was playing:

Fred Buscaglione - Guarda Che Luna

I thought then, and still believe now, that it was terribly romantic of the Italians to play "moon music" while the rest of the world was trying to explain the science of it all....

My parents' generation were much more impressed than mine and the next day my dad called me in Italy - not an easy thing to do then - to check that I'd seen the news.  Back home my old grandpa went around scratching his head for about a year afterwards, remarking that he'd "never expected to live to see the day" whilst I, with all the coolness of a generation brought up with transistor radios and television, shrugged and said I couldn't understand why it hadn't happened before.  Only now do I appreciate what a "giant leap" that really was and how it made us believe that there were no frontiers. Women's liberation was to come in the next decade and barrier after barrier and icon after icon fell.  "Where did it all go, that hope?" one might ask now but to do so is not to belittle Armstrong's achievements or those of the men and women who came after him.

But that's enough philosophising - let's be Italian and get to the music!  Here's another favourite Italian song of mine that features the moon:

Renzo Arbore e L'Orchestra Italiana - Luna Rossa

Here's one for the ladies:  Before she was rich, sings the great Patty Pravo, she lived in phases like the moon with fantastic explosions of blue light:

Patty Pravo - La Luna

This one too was written, I believe, with women in mind.  If you don't "even want the moon" but just a little more time to yourself to dream, without waiting around for a man who has wronged you, this is the song for you!

Fiordaliso - Non voglio mica la luna

Who has not, at some time in their life, seen the moon as a "big pizza pie" and felt like this?

Dean Martin - That's Amore

This song sets me dreaming:

Ana Oxa - Bianca Luna

And now, because Francis Albert is of Sicilian ancestry....

Frank Sinatra - Fly Me to the Moon

and Mr Bublé is an Italian Canadian:

Michael Bublé - Moondance

Henry Mancini, of course, had Italian parents and we hummed this song of his throughout the moon landing decade:

Andy Williams and Henry Mancini - Moon River

The post would not be complete without Italy's sweetheart:

Sophia Loren - Guarda la Luna from Nine

Last night there was a glorious, golden moon over Sicily and I'm sure she was shining in tribute to Mr Armstrong.  I went out on my balcony and gazed at her as I did all those years ago in Foppolo.

Before I go, I've decided to slip this song in because my dad loved it and tomorrow would have been his birthday:

Dorothy Lamour - Moon of Manakoora

Goodnight, Dad and buon viaggio, Neil Armstrong, wherever you both are.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Welcome back to Sicily Antonello Venditti, who is to perform at the Teatro Antico in Taormina tomorrow evening.

Antonello Venditti - Che fantastica storia è la vita

Friday, August 24, 2012


Marie Spartali Stillman
Image: Wikipedia Italia

As I said on Tuesday, you know it's too hot when the Sicilians start to complain and today everyone is doing just that.

"I can't stand it any more", said the newsagent's wife, fanning herself, as I purchased a newspaper this morning.  "It's been three months now".  Indeed, she is right, for this year the heatwaves began in June, not in July as they usually do. As for the sea, that is of no help to us either, according to the Modicani, because now there is "too much humidity" down at the beach.

What, then, are we to do?  Well, we can await the promised storm Beatrice but  "Waiting for Beatrice" has become rather like "Waiting for Godot" and, as in the play, I fear there is "nothing to be done". Nothing to be done except call upon Sicilian pazienza....

In the meantime, Sicilians compare the depth of their suntans, smilingly assure me that there are "only" another ten days to go before everything reopens after the seemingly endless August break and ask me why the British newspapers are "afraid" of the Queen. I explain that the publications' reticence [until today] over the Prince Harry pictures has nothing to do with fear of a woman with no political power but is based on fear of possible new privacy laws. Then I explain the Harry puns.....

Today the first fichi d'India of the new season are in the shops - a sure sign of autumn.  Could it be the fact that fico can also mean "cool" or a goodlooking fellow that made me think of them then?

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The inspiration for this dish was a recipe by Benedetta Parodi.  She marinates the chicken breast escalopes in soya sauce, Worcester Sauce, vinegar and Szechuan pepper and I found some of the steps in her recipe a bit fiddly.  Besides, the last time I was in Catania I found some tamarind paste [which I had been missing for years] and I wanted to use it! Benedetta serves her version on individual plates, all pretty and restaurant-style but I have plonked everything together.

First, get the butcher to cut one chicken breast [if you are in Italy] or two [if you are in the UK]* into very thin escalopes.  Marinate these in a mixture of 2 tablesp tamarind paste, 1 tablesp white wine vinegar, 2 tablesp olive oil and a grinding of mixed peppercorns.  If you can leave them to marinate in the fridge overnight, so much the better.

When you are nearly ready to cook the chicken, cut four large courgettes into lengthwise slices as thinly as you can. Cook the slices in boiling, salted water for about 10 mins.  Drain them and rinse with cold water, then put them in a serving bowl, dressed with a little salt and 2 tablesp olive oil.

Halve a few datterini or cherry tomatoes and marinate with a little salt, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablesp olive oil in another bowl.  [Benedetta blanches, peels and cuts normal-sized tomatoes in half, then dices the flesh but I couldn't be bothered to do that.]

Now drain the chicken escalopes and pat as dry as you can with kitchen paper. Cook them, one or two at a time, in 2 tablesp olive oil on a ridged griddle pan [about a minute each side].  As they are done,put them on kitchen paper.

To serve, put the cooked escalopes on top of the dressed zucchini, drain the tomatoes and use to garnish, sprinkling some lemon zest over.

This dish tastes good cold, too!

*because of the way they are sold in the two countries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


As I write, we are in the throes of anticylone Lucifero, which comes to us from the desert and follows Caligola, Nerone and four other anticyclones since June. During Nerone, the temperature one day soared to 49 C in Modica Bassa and registered 45 C in this district.

It's a myth that only the British constantly discuss the weather:  the Sicilians do it too but, just as they have a different concept of holidays, so they have different ideas about what constitutes good and bad weather.  Where I come from, a temperature of 20 C is regarded as a heatwave and is sufficient to set the British tabloids screeching, "Cor! What a scorcher!" in their headlines but here anything less than about 33 C in summer is dismissed as "brutto" ["bad"].  Even Sicilians, though, are apt to complain once the thermometer shows 40 C and you would think that, after three months of such extreme heat, they would greet a little rain with relief.

Not so:  when the weather briefly broke ten days ago the rain and a few hailstones - admittedly the hailstones, because of the way houses are built here, sounded like a bombardment - caused widespread consternation and a friend I was with at the time even crossed herself.  Somehow I don't think an autumn break in Cardiff would be for her!

As most Sicilians spend the three months of high summer at their houses by the sea or in the country, the usual afternoon greeting is "Com'era il mare stamattina?" ["How was the sea this morning?"] and if there was the slightest ripple on the surface of the water, the answer will be "brutto".  A breeze will cause the sea to be described as "mosso" ["rough"]. What my Sicilian friends would make of the brave British who do daily battle with the winds in such locations as Weston-super-Mare I dread to imagine.

The serious side of all this is the spread of fire in the countryside during these heatwaves - one Sicilian firefighter has lost his life this summer - and the fact that meteorologists fear flooding in autumn because of the residual heat that will be given off by the soil.

We are promised a respite from the heat this weekend with the arrival of storm Beatrice. This rain-loving Brit awaits her as Dante awaited another Beatrice.

Henry Holiday
Dante Meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinità
Image: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK
via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, August 20, 2012


What with all the Ferragosto inconveniences last week, I found myself much in need of comfort food and what could be more comforting than mashed potato?  In this heat, I also wanted something cold so I was pleased to find a recipe for a cold, mashed potato zuccotto in this month's La Cucina Italiana. The potatoes are mashed with olive oil, seasoning, grated lemon zest, basil and parsley and the filling contains chopped, roasted tomatoes, chopped rocket, chopped green and black olives and, in my version, capers - these last for no better reason than that I like them. [I substituted them for the onion in the recipe.]  The sauce around the zuccotto is the sieved juice saved from the tomatoes as they were deseeded prior to roasting.  A good old British pudding basin was called up for zuccotto mould duty.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


One of my favourite Italian singers, Albano Carrisi [Al Bano], was disappointed on Wednesday when the priest  of the Church of San Nicola in Cisternino [Brindisi, Puglia] forbade him to sing the Bach / Gounod Ave Maria at his friend Michele Placido's wedding, on the grounds that it is not a "religious" song.

An exasperated Al Bano told journalists that he had sung this song all over the world, including at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, so he found it absurd not to be allowed to sing it in his own region.  In the end the priest's objections were overruled and Al Bano sang the song in the church, but only at the end of all the religious proceedings. 

If the Bach / Gounod Ave Maria is not a "religious" song, I don't know what is but that's just my opinion.  What's yours? I'd love to know, so if you would take a moment to do the poll in the sidebar, I'd be grateful. The poll will remain open for one week.

Meanwhile, never mind, Mr Carrisi - you are welcome to sing the song here on Sicily Scene

Al Bano [al Vaticano] - Ave Maria [Bach/Gounod]

Friday, August 17, 2012


Yesterday I was surprised and delighted to receive a comment on this blog from Susan Van Allen, author of the wonderful 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go . Before dancing around the room, I contacted Susan on twitter to confirm that the comment really was from her and she kindly replied.  Whoopee!

Susan told me that she has included this blog in the new edition of the book.  Thank you, Susan.  Simi and I are honoured.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Monte Titano, San Marino
Image:  Wikimedia Commons

This is not a post about Sicily, but the Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, which I have visited only once and loved.

In Italy for Beginners, the humourist George Mikes wrote,

"The Italians cannot - and do not even try to - spoil the fun San Marino has with postage stamps.  A treaty exists between Italy and San Marino, under which Italy makes an annual payment ..... and in return San Marino forgoes her right to print money, grow tobacco, distil alcohol or impose duties of any kind.  She is, however, allowed to print her own stamps..... Magnificent and impressive stamps pour from the printing presses every month or so to the delight and despair of collectors.

Mikes was writing in 1956 and Italy and, no doubt, San Marino are very different today but the book still contains nuggets of truth that anyone who has had an extended stay in Italy will recognise with a wry smile.  I particularly recommend the last section of Mikes's chapter on San Marino, in which he is mistaken for a spokesperson for the Duke of Gloucester, to you. 

The Sammarinesi continue to produce beautiful stamps and this week they have unveiled a special edition which will be sold in order to raise funds for reconstruction work in the areas affected by the Emilia-Romagna earthquake earlier this year.

Image: via Meteoweb

The slogan for the edition reads, "Hold your hand out to rebirth" and, as you see, the leaf resembles a hand.  It is holding a brick, which symbolises reconstruction.  The release date for the stamp is 30th August but it can be purchased on the internet from 20th August.

Let's hear it for San Marino!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Tomorrow is the Ferragosto [Assumption Day] holiday and Italy is already closed for business. Italians, you see, all have to go on holiday at the same time and if you suggest that maybe an institution, company, bar or store could stagger staff holidays, you are looked at with incredulity.  To quote one of my favourite writers on living in Italy, Tim Parks:

"For in Italy people are remarkable above all for their conformity, for all doing the same thing at the same time."
- Tim Parks,  An Italian Education

You would think that, after seven years here, I would have got used to the two-week shutdown around this holiday but I have not and this year, in particular, I find myself throwing my arms up in despair as I imagine Mrs Merkel might when she contemplates the Italian economy.  Perhaps it is because this year I am trying to get quite a few things done during this period and, instead of accepting that I cannot, my anger has been boiling over for the past few days:  an important item which is supposed to have been posted to me three weeks ago from Bologna has not arrived and the excuse, of course, is the "time of year";  this morning the banks not only closed one and a half hours early, "because we're prefestivo", but every ATM in Modica was down too!  Come on, guys, if you are going to close the banks a day early, at least make sure the ATMs are working!  The other reason that all this gets to me is that the barista or shop assistant might be the only person with whom someone without a family exchanges a few words in 24 - 48 hours and believe me, such pleasantries as are uttered in these circumstances are important.

However, what one has to come to terms with is that the Italians and the British have totally different concepts of what constitutes a holiday and the Italians actually think it is a time to relax.  Tim Parks, again, explains this very well in the same book, remarking that, for the British, a holiday is more of an endurance test:

"Those were holidays that made a hero of you, that made you proud of our glorious centuries of miserable weather, holidays that made you.... English."

Well, I suppose I'd better grin and bear it, just as I must have grinned and borne sand in my sandwiches, impossible deckchairs, wasps on candyfloss and sitting on the beach in a plastic mac long ago in Britain.  Only another two and a half weeks of this madness to go!

Me "enduring" a holiday in Devon,
c. 1955

Happy Ferragosto, everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012


I've written about this road in Modica's Polo Commerciale or Sorda shopping centre before.  It's a fine enough road but has hitherto been pavementless.  

Very few people, it seems, have ever complained about this because the city has very few pedestrians.  Being one of them, though, I can't tell you how many times I have taken my life in my hands to walk to the far end of the Polo [to a pet shop for Simi's food and treats] and received a free but unwanted mud bath from passing cars in the process.  So I nearly whooped for joy when, boldly venturing in that direction again today, I saw that a pavement has at last been laid. What's more, it has been finished!  Yes, a lovely, wide pavement running all the way along to the shops at that end!  

There is still, however, no pathway out at the far end of the row of large stores, leaving pedestrians no choice but to walk the length of the store fronts twice more if they want to exit that way [because they have to go round them], but perhaps even this will come if someone on the planning committee exercises their imagination.  All it takes is for someone to think, "Now, what would it be like to be a pedestrian here?"

Come on, Modica - you can do it!  Build that pathway and, while you're at it, how about a few buses to take people to that end of the Polo?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


In memory of Lucio Quarantotto, who, sadly, commited suicide at his home in Mestre [Venice] on 31st July.  Lucio Quarantotto gave us the Italian lyrics of this:

Andrea Bocelli e Sarah Brightman - Con te partirò

Friday, August 10, 2012


There's going to be quite a party for Modican fencer Giorgio Avola [on the right in the picture] in the town's Piazza Matteotti on Tuesday night!

The poster reads,

"We are proud of your strength and determination. Modica climbed onto the highest step of the podium with you. Thank you, Giorgio, for making our city golden too."

Thursday, August 09, 2012


As you may have read, last Friday some of Italy's private beach companies, in what became known as the sciopero degli ombrelloni or "parasol strike", staged a protest against new EU regulations which, from 2016, will allow for licence auctions. 

And this is what Simi the dog had to say about it:

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Beppe Grillo
Image:  Lucarelli via Wikimedia Commons

I am, on the whole, a fan of Beppe Grillo though I am beginning to believe that he falls into the category of people whom Lillian Hellman called "good rebels who are bad revolutionaries". [I rather hope I am one myself!] Here is what Miss Hellman has to say about such souls:

"Rebels seldom make good revolutionaries, perhaps because organized action, even union with other people, is not possible for them."
- Lillian Hellman:  An Unfinished Woman

Anyway, in April Mr Grillo, whose anti-corruption Movimento 5 Stelle party has been winning important local elections in Italy, offended Sicilians when he said that even the Mafia doesn't strangle its victims but takes 10% protection money instead, the implication being that the government, with its anti-crisis measures, is "strangling" the electorate.  Obviously this is a hurtful remark, especially to those who have lost loved ones in anti-Mafia campaigns, and a storm of criticism ensued.

Rosy Bindi

Next Mr Grillo turned his attention to Rosy Bindi, the President of the Pd [Democratic Party]. Ms Bindi has been much maligned in the past, most famously on television in 2009 by Mr Berlusconi, who said she was "more beautiful than intelligent". [The saddest thing about this remark, I've always felt, was that Mr Berlusconi probably genuinely believed it to be a compliment.]  In July Mr Grillo, referring to the Democratic Party's stance on gay marriage, said that Ms Bindi had "probably not had cohabitation problems with the love of her life", earning himself the accusation of being "worse than Berlusconi" from Pd Secretary Pierluigi Bersani and winning few women friends in the process.

As if all that were not bad enough, now Mr Grillo has launched an attack on the Olympics with the following statement on his blog:

"I don't know, nor have I ever known in all my life, anyone who practises foil or sabre fencing, yet when the Olympics are on I'm proud if my country wins. Then for another four years, I couldn't care less.  It's not the athletes who win, but nations.  It's the trimph of nationalism."

You'd better not say that in Modica, Mr Grillo!

Italian Male Fencing Team, including Giorgio Avola from Modica, wins gold in London:

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


I enjoyed making this stuffed pepper recipe and it's nice and simple for a hot day when you can't be bothered with much cooking.  To fill 4 large peppers, mix 500 gr minced meat - I used a mixture of pork and veal, which the butcher "put through the mincer again together, to give you a better mix" - with about 250 gr pane grattugiato [fine, fresh breadcrumbs] which have been soaked in milk and then kind of "wrung out" in your hands, 125 gr grated parmesan or ragusano cheese, 3 beaten eggs, a good handful of chopped fresh basil and parsley, a pinch of ground cinnamon and seasoning.  No pre-cooking of the mixture is necessary and, once you have scraped the membrane and seeds out of the peppers, all you have to do is - well, stuff them, pop the lids back on and cook them, in a foil-lined dish in which they will all stand up, at 180 C for 40 minutes.  They were good hot but, especially in this weather, I think I prefer them cold.  Just leave them in the fridge for a few hours.

Monday, August 06, 2012


The Italian Male Foil Fencing Team wins gold in London, 5.8.12.
Left to right: Valerio Aspromonte, Andrea Baldini, Andrea Cassarà , Giorgio Avola
Image: Conad Scherma Modica via facebook

I am delighted to be able to report that Modican fencer Giorgio Avola, who went to London as a reserve for Italy's male foil team, got his chance to participate yesterday and did his town, and his country, proud when the team won gold.

"To wake up, switch on the iPhone and realise it wasn't just a wonderful dream", wrote Giorgio on twitter this morning. What a homecoming his will be!

Tante congratulazioni, Giorgio, da un'inglese di Modica.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


Laura Mollica, accompanied by Giuseppe Greco, performing at the Teatro San Barnaba,Valderice [Trapani] where she is to perform again tonight.  Laura Mollica's voice has been entered as a cultural treasure in the UNESCO Register of the Intellectual Heritage of Sicily [REI - UNESCO].

Laura Mollica con Giuseppe Greco - La Vuci Mia


Pear and pineapple

Friday, August 03, 2012


Cu' nasci masculu nasci stidda.
He who is born a male is born a star.
- Sicilian proverb

Italy's Supreme court, the Cassazione, has yet again intervened to protect the sensibilities of the Italian male and this time, it has excelled itself:

On Tuesday, Judge Maurizio Fumo ruled that it is now a crime to tell a man he "has no balls" ["Tu non hai palle"]. This overturns the previous not guilty verdict of a Potenza [Basilicata] court in the case of a man who had uttered the phrase against his lawyer cousin in a court in Taranto [Puglia].  

In Cassazione Ruling no. 30719 Judge Fumo reasoned that,

"Apart from the vulgarity of the expression, it is really insulting, implying that the injured party lacks virility and also suffers from weakness of character, lack of determination, a lack of general capability and a lack of consistency - all characteristics which, rightly or wrongly, we associate with the male."

Judge Fumo also said that the phrase, uttered in the workplace, could be damaging to a man's reputation there.

OK, Cassazione - now I would like you to make it illegal for a person to greet a woman with the remark,

"Gosh, you've put on weight!"

Got it?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I made a version of Palma D'Onofrio's Chicken with Grapefruit and Ginger.  This is the salad I made to go with it - a sort of cheat's tabbouleh, really:

Quick Bulghur Wheat Salad

Cover c. 300 gr bulghur wheat with cold water and leave to absorb.  Then repeat the process. In a large bowl, add the drained contents of a jar of antipasto sott'olio [small onions, tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, olives, etc., in oil] to the bulghur wheat with the rind and juice of a lemon, 3 tablesp olive oil, seasoning, a handful of chopped, fresh mint leaves and another of chopped parsley.  Stir very well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Note:  Bulghur wheat is not easy to find here but sometimes it appears in larger supermarkets.  Sometimes I buy it in Catania.  You could make this salad with couscous, too.


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