Faux Pas

May 6, 2015

So I’m at the fruttivendolo, greengrocer’s, a charming hole-in-the wall.

I’m cooling my heels waiting my turn while the vendor and a customer with a nest of snow-white hair lament Italy’s problemi. Every so often the snow-white customer points to a cucumber or a pile of chicory, which the vendor oh-so-carefully picks up and weighs. Ten minutes pass. The two men are pretty riled up–hands flail all over the place–about the fact that Prime Minister Renzi got his electoral reform law (Italicum) passed. Will the right to strike be affected, they fret? Because Italy is a striking culture: teachers & pilots & baggage handlers & bus drivers & train operators & truck drivers & museum workers & taxi drivers walk off the job on a regular basis. You cannot take that away from the Italian 99%-ers, can you???

Anyway, the snow-white man finally shouts a hearty parting to one and all (Buona giornata e buon pranzo! Good day and good lunch!) and steps out the door, trailing a bag chock-full of chicory.Chicory, copyright Jann HuizengaI’m up next. Lemons, please! We engage in an animated conversation about how the mayor is spoiling the village with his vulgar signage. The vendor pulls me onto the street and points out an ugly sign that has gone up on the corner, right next to an ancient stone fountain. Back inside I point out some big bright oranges. And then we’re onto the next topic: the vendor’s recent malady. This is how a transaction goes in small Sicilian markets.

I’m still being served when in waltz two americani. They do not say buongiorno. No greeting at all! Strike 1. Then they head for the tomatoes, and–horror of horrors!!–fondle the juicy red orbs with their own filthy fingers, scooping up the ones they want themselves! I suppress a gasp. Strike 2. And, yes, it gets worse: they march up to the cash register, pull out their euro bills and push them at the vendor. AND I’M STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF MY TURN!!!! Strike 3. The vendor is gracious, as am I. But the episode makes me see how easy it is for innocents abroad to commit faux pas, and in these innocents, I see myself. And yes, there is a strike 4. They waltz out the door with nary a word, wishing us neither a good day nor a good lunch.

The Greengrocer's, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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The Meadow is On My Plate

May 1, 2015

May Day. National holiday.

Andiamo alla campagna!  One and all to the countryside!

Heading for the hills on May Day is one of those unwritten Sicilian rules, like the one that requires you, when hanging out your wash, to clip each sock at the toe and hang it neatly next to its mate.

So off we go.

And there we find: bygone lanes, farmhouses with braying dogs, fields of ripe artichokes.

Bygone lane, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Farmhouse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Artichoke in Field, copyright Jann HuizengaBut why we’ve really come is to forage for wild food. We rummage in meadows, like old-time peasants. Look! There’s asparagus, lassini and malva!

This goes on for hours.

Field of flowers, copyright Jann Huizenga

Lassini--you have to pick these stems before they flower. It's already too late to eat this particular plant but we find lassini plants in the shade that have not yet flowered.

Lassini–you have to pick these stems before they flower. It’s already too late to eat this particular plant but we find lassini plants in the shade that have not yet flowered.

Malva--you eat the leaves, not the flowers. It's such an ancient food that Horace mentions it: Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae (As for me, olives, chickory and malva provide sustenance.)

Malva–you eat the leaves, not the flowers. It’s such an ancient food that Horace mentions it: Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae (As for me, olives, chickory and malva provide sustenance.)

When hunger hits, we pull down green almonds and pop the whole fuzzy thing in our mouths. I make a sour face and am admonished for my timidity.

green olive, copyright Jann HuizengaTwenty minutes after arriving home, the meadow is on my plate.

Pasta Dish, Copyright Jann HuizengaIt’s getting cold, so I will bid you buon appetito and arrivederci.



Welcome Back Sun

March 27, 2015

Sicily, Sunny Sicily, was underwater most of March. I wasn’t here til three days ago, but i knew the moment I set foot in the house; water washed down walls, the floor was ponding.

But there’s a bright new sky today. Lizards slither. Underwear waves on balconies. Palm and olive branches abound.

Sicily; Hanging Laundry; copyright Jann Huizenga

Olive and palm branches, Sicily

Carrying olive branches on Palm Sunday, Sicily; Copyright Jann HuizengaSicilians are still swaddled in winter gear.

Though tourists are convinced it’s summer.

Tourist in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Carmelo, my favorite barista in the whole world, is once again serving outdoors. He hasn’t set eyes on Kim for almost a year, and yet he remembered his drink: a doppio, double espresso.

Barista in Sicily; copyright Jann Huizenga

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Tanti baci della Sicilia,



All Saints Day

November 1, 2013

Today we celebrate saints. The whole nation is on holiday.

For the first time there’s the faintest whiff of fall in the bright blue air.

Sheets flap from every balcony. (On holidays and Sundays electricity is practically free in Italy. So everyone’s done the washing.)

It was a good morning for bumping into amici. I found Salvatore, a 95-year old friend, in a cafe on the piazza.  He told me war stories. How his ship was torpedoed. How he was taken prisoner by the British and marched through the Algerian desert without water.  How, in his prison camp in Liverpool, the British girls went wild for him. (“They didn’t care for the Romans, Tuscans, or Neapolitans–only Sicilians.”)

I greeted the furniture restorer, the ice cream maker, the baker. I found my friend Sara at the gardens, and she saw her friend Salvo, an artist who took us to his studio, stuffed with a thousand paintings of the Sicilian countryside.

A perfect morning in Sicily.

Village Snapshop, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Tomorrow, November 2, we celebrate departed souls (All Soul’s Day). Children will hunt around the house for gifts left by dead relatives, the cemeteries will be full, and we’ll devour cookies called Bones of the Dead.


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Strong & Passionate (& Loco)

April 4, 2013

Easter is long gone, I know.

But not here in Sicily. After an intense week of processions and candles and dirge-tolling bells and Roman soldiers on horseback and skies aflame with fireworks and Easter lambs and ricotta tarts and cassata cakes, we’re just starting to come to our senses.

Sicilians confirmed, once again, that they’re a strong and passionate people.

And absolutely loco.

In the little village of Ferla, Jesus and Mary wafted out of churches at the opposite ends of town on the shoulders of a dozen hale and hearty Sicilians. The Madonna went uphill; Jesus down. When they got within sight of each other, Jesus broke into a joyful downhill sprint toward Mary.

Easter Celebration in Ferla, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Twelve pairs of legs were scrambling, centipede-like, to balance his incredible weight while flying downhill. Onlookers gaped just inches away.

I had been casually snapping pictures–la-dee-da–when the stampede began. Aghast, I was–a straniera innocente more or less in their path.

Easter in Ferla, Sicily, copyright jann huizenga

But all is well that ends well, and the morning ended with fireworks streaming through blue skies, tears streaming down cheeks, and kisses & hugs galore. Easter in Ferla, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

I am sending you some virtual ones. xxxxxxxxxoooooooooo


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