A walk to the fig tree

The fig tree

In the summer Sicilian’s become like frugivorous animals living off the fruits produced by their gardens. So my husband, son and I are obliged to take a walk to the fig tree to gather up its bounty.

The only problem is the tree is hidden deep below a steep precipice behind overgrown bushes and prickly vines. So a simple walk to a fig tree becomes a trek through the Sicilian undergrowth.

According to my son’s fertile imagination, we were buried in the jungle. In reality, we were making a path through the rugged and abandoned countryside. I was imagining twisted ankles, ripped clothes and thorns.

 

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After literally cutting a path through the bushes we were rewarded by a pleasant walk under the shade of overgrown hazelnut trees in a pathway well hidden from the still burning afternoon sun littered with small mulberries we all love to eat.

 

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When we finally reached the tree, we receive the most indulgent reward, an elaborate tree filled with lush mature fruit. Something is satisfying about eating fresh fruit from under a tree. As I pick the most delicious figs, the white sap bleeds onto my hands, and the figs split open, I place them in my mouth.

 

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While slurping up my first fig of the year, I recall how Italian Renaissance poets used the image of the fig as an erotic metaphor for female genitalia, who knew to eat a fig would be so provocative.

 

 

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The fig has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and is native to the region between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The tree repeatedly appears in the Bible, and some scholars believe the forbidden fruit picked by Eve was a fig rather than an apple.

 

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We are forced to fight off the birds for the figs, as their growing season is so short and intense, we have to be quick, or we’ll miss out. If there is an abundant crop, I might get the chance to make fig jam, or we can choose to dry them in the sun so we can eat them later with roasted hazelnuts in the winter.

The exciting possibilities are endless.

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Summer decadence

Summer decadence post title

Sicily is filled with many culinary delicacies throughout the year, but it seems to outdo itself for the summer holidays when everyone is out to have a good time and forget their diets. There are the usual pastries and the cliché gelati but two particular summer favourites which simply must not be missed by any visitor to the island.

The first is the simple granita, an iced drink offered in a variety of flavours including lemon, strawberry, coffee, chocolate, almond, berry, peach etc. (the choice is limitless, depending on the imagination of your local café bar owner.) To be clear this isn’t merely shaved ice flavoured with artificial syrups, they are made from fresh seasonal fruit and ingredients.

       

 

The most irresistible temptation for a summer breakfast is packed with tonnes of, ‘ruin your diet,’ calories but, ‘really who the hell cares about that’ taste. A coffee granita, for caffeine lovers, is the ultimate iced coffee. It must be consumed with a thick layer of fresh cream and a giant sweet bread briosche to dip into it as you mix the cream into this exquisite creation.
For those who aren’t a fan of coffee try strawberry with fresh cream, when you mix the two together, it is like eating strawberries and cream. Or if you have something against fresh cream and sweet bread try ordering lemon and strawberry swirled together for a refreshing summertime drink.

 

Secondly but by no means inferior to the granita is an ice cream filled sweet bread. Yes, my friends you heard it right, a mega serving of ice cream inside a bread roll for a hamburger with a difference.
Not for the faint-hearted, a brioche con gelato is a regular meal substitute. Don’t, for example, have it after a big continental breakfast or a typical several course Italian meal because you will end up feeling very ill.
It may seem like a strange thing to eat but believe me, you will be tempted by a filling of two or more of your favourite ice creams, which will be complemented by the texture of the extra soft pastry as you devour it.
Try it, and you’ll understand what I mean.

 

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Decadenza Estiva

Decadenza Estiva blog

La Sicilia è piena di molte delizie culinare durante tutto l’anno, ma sembra che ancora di più vengano fuori per le vacanze estive, quando tutti sono pronti per divertirsi e dimenticono le loro diete. Ci sono i soliti dolci e i classici gelati, due particolari preferenze estive che semplicemente non devono essere dimenticate da ogni visitatore dell’isola.

La prima è l’umile granita, una bevanda ghiacciata offerte in una varietà di gusti, quali: limone, fragola, caffè, cioccolato, mandorle, more, pesca ecc (le scelte è senza limiti, depende dall’immaginazione del propretario del bar. Per essere chiaro questo non è sempice ghiaccio tritato aromatizzato con sciroppi artificiali, sono fatti con frutta fresca stagionale e ingredienti veri.

 

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La più irresistibile tentazione per una colazione estiva è un pacchetto ‘rovina dieta’, ma in verità per quel sapore, chi se ne frega. Una granita al caffè, per gli amanti della caffeina è il migliore caffè freddo della tua vita. Deve essere assolutamente consumato con uno spesso strato di panna montata e uno gigante e dolce brioche da inzuppare in modo da mischiare la panna in questa squisito creazione.

Per quelli che non sono fan del caffè provatelo panna e fragola, quando miscelate i due insieme è come mangiare fragole e panna. O se avete qualcosa contro la panna o la briosche provate a ordinare granita fragola e limone insieme per una rinfrescante bevanda. Alcuni Siciliani ordiano acqua minerale con un cucchiao di granita o te freddo e granita o la birra e granita le combinazioni sono infinite.

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Poi c’è la briosche riempito con gelato, che non è inferiore alla granita per niente. Si amici miei avete letto bene, una porzione gigantesca di gelato dentro un panino per un hamburger con una differenza.

Non è per i deboli di cuore, una briosche con gelato è una sostituto di un pasto. Per esempio non mangiatelo dopo un abbondanti colazione o dopo aver mangiato un pranzo con tante portate perchè finireti per sentirvi molto male.

Potrebbe sembrare una strana cosa da mangiare, ma credetevi sareti tentati di sicuro da due o più gusti di gelato Siciliano, che si sposano perfattamente con la consistenza della sofficissima pasta quando la divorate.

Provatela e capirete.

Postcards from Sicily: Oregano

Oregano

This summer I photographed this Sicilian Oregano drying in the sun. Oregano grows wild in amongst the Mediterranean scrub of Sicily and is gathered and saved to add flavor to meats and other dishes. As I was taking this photo I was struck by the rustic almost dirty look of the rocks and the herbs, it is harsh but like the real Sicily, that’s the way it is.

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Gathering wild fennel

It’s the end of August which means the end of summer is here. The reign of warm sunny days is beginning to lose it’s hold over the seasons as intense storms usher in the autumn and eventually winter.

The ancient culinary rites which once symbolized the preparation for the harsh winters have already began. Tomatoes have soaked up the summer sun, egg plants have been preserved in olive oil together with stuffed peppers and the first batch of porcini mushrooms.

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Now with the first rains the wild fennel flowers are in bloom which means they will be collected, dried then ground to season fresh or dried pork sausages later on in the winter or sprinkled over winter vegetables like sliced boiled potatoes fried to add flavor and create a warm sensation to keep you snug on dark winter nights.

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The tastes of summer are always so lovingly preserved to remind Sicilian’s of Hade’s promise to return Demeter’s daughter Persephone to Sicily saving the ancient world from an endless winter.

The kidnapping of the goddess of fertility’s only daughter saw the earth cast into eternal darkness with Demeter’s grief. We thank Zeus that he was able to persuade Hades to return Persephone for a six month visit, where Demeter gives us the joy of spring and summer. Unfortunately having eaten from the forbidden fruit Persephone is destined to be Hades’ spouse and live out the rest of the year in the afterlife.

Here’s to holding onto the summer until Persephone’s next visit to us.

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Images from Google images

My Sicilian summer holiday in pictures

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Ceramic Vase, Santo Stefano, Messina
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

 

 

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Church of the Madonna, Tindari (ME)
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

 

 

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Open air fresh food markets, Randazzo, Catania
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

 

 

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Street artist, Randazzo, (Ct)
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

 

To be continued …

 

Unwilling Expat

 

 

Lazy Summer daze

 

 

I’m sorry to report that the summer of 2012 here in Sicily, Italy is kinda slow.

 

Usually there are summer festivals, concerts and Sagras happening around the place. (A sagra being a free food festival where you can go and eat a free meal based on fresh local produce, there are sagras dedicated to everything from salami, tomatoes, beer and mortadella, fried beans, hazelnuts, oranges or any other product you can think of.)

 

So we are here nearly halfway through the summer and I’ve only hear through the grapevine of two concerts of obscure Italian singers at Floresta, nothing being announced yet at our little town of Sinagra and more gravely still nothing at the usual social hive of Capo d’orlando. Capo is a wonderfully touristy beachside city which is usually a buzz with people in the summer but a few days spent at the beach this month has shown a real downturn in numbers (perhaps people are coming in August??)

 

It’s really noticeable how Italy has slipped into a recession. Australia went through a similar time in the early 90’s I recall but being a relatively stoic country, the Australian’s put up their inherited stiff British upper lip, tightened their belts and did whatever other blasé cliché was required to get through it. I’m afraid that Italy is getting depressed!

 

So these lazy summer daze are passing by rather uneventfully. Here’s hoping I find something to do, it’s a shame to waste the summer twiddling my thumbs. Oh well I guess I can watch some Olympic action in the next few days, I’m raring to see that opening ceremony!!

 

Snooze!

 

Cheers

 

The unwilling expat