May 13, 2010
Of all the things I love about living in Sicily, at the top of my list are the venditori ambulenti, roving vendors.
Can you believe a produce market comes to me?
All I have to do is hang around the house in my sweats and wait for the vendor’s croaking call (Carrote! Asparagi!) to get a garden-fresh lunch. Sometimes, when I don’t appear in the street fast enough, he rings my buzzer to announce his arrival. I shuffle out in house slippers with the other Sicilian housewives.
The back of his truck overflows with floppy lettuces, cauliflower the size of your head, ripe tomatoes, wild artichokes, and just-plucked oranges—their green-leafed stems still attached as proof of freshness.
He never weighs anything. The total price is always €1.50, no matter what. Today I chose some fat fennel, wild strawberries, and a kilo of plump tomatoes. He smiled and tossed in two unexpected cucumbers “for the tomato salad.”
He shows up a few times a week, always chomping a toothpick. He flirts like crazy with all the housewives (Sicilians never outgrow this game). He shares his recipes, and I pretend to understand his rapid-fire Sicilian.
Then there’s the hawker with a megaphone who pulls up in a white van. He carries around a whole mini-market: tomato paste, biscotti, lentils, toilet paper, you name it. He saves me a trip down 100 steps to the nearest little Alis market.
I ask you: is this not a beautiful thing?
Thanks everyone for your recent comments. A big CONGRATULATIONS to Christine Hickman for winning the random drawing on May 10 for Toni Lydecker’s Seafood alla Siciliana. Christine lives part-time in Perugia (Umbria), where she runs cooking classes. What a perfect fit for the book! Check out Christine’s website at sonomarcella.com.