October 2, 2011
Yes, Sicily’s folk culture is endangered, her old way of life fading away. I lose sleep over this.
But Franco and Salvo are trying to stop the march of time. The men have a vision and a passion: to save an old flour mill, to grow ancient varieties of wheat for grinding, and to produce Sicily’s old-time bread. The mill in question, Mulino Soprano, had been in Franco’s family since it was built in 1822, but it had–like all the other flour mills in Sicily–gone to seed, closing in the early 1980s.
Thanks to “progress,” flour is industrial in Sicily today, pretty much devoid of nutrients and high in hard-to-digest gluten. The ancient varieties of wheat that grew on the island in Roman times have given way to a few globalized varieties.
But Franco, 50-something, can still remember a childhood when the mill was a hub of rural life Sicily and a center of gossip, when he ran in fields of wheat and fell asleep to the sound of swooshing water.
So Franco and Salvo spend all their spare time on weekends, while scraping together their own money, to bring back a slice of Sicily’s past.
There’s still work to be done. The men are experimenting with ways of baking bread; they plan to open a bakery, too. Already they’ve got a deliciously chewy brown bread–something that you can’t find in any bakeries here.
Way to go, guys! You’re local heroes to me!
The mill in Contrada Cifali on the road between Chiaramonte and Ragusa, but is impossible to find unless you go with someone in the know. And that person would be Consuelo Petrolo, an adorable tour guide with excellent English. You can reach her at [email protected] or visit her website. Consuelo can also find holiday housing for you in Southeast Sicily.