A Cave of Men, and Qualms

July 26, 2014

Around eight in the evening, in a town I don’t know, I pause to shoot this wide-eyed fella and his a wispy beard.

Come on in. Don’t I want to see the club?

I hesitate. Will someone spring on me? Twist my arms and slaughter me?

Man at Club Entry, copyright Jann Huizenga

You have to stoop to get inside the old scratched door. Claw marks?

The place is dusky and cavernous.

He says the name is La Caverna.

I squint and pick my way through the pitch-darkness. Who is lurking at the back of the cave?

It’s only Mr. White Glasses, smoking. Turns out he’s the owner of the cavern.

Mr. White Glasses, copyright Jann Huizenga

Mr. White Glasses leads me toward an even blacker room in the back. Is this where they hold the hostages?

Mr. Little and Friends, copyright Jann Huizenga

But no. There is only sweet Mr. Little and his tame friends playing a game.

Mr Little's Friends, copyright Jann Huizenga

Laughing, chatting, joking. Not even drinking.

I’m charmed.

The fella leads me back out and wishes me a buona serata.

Sicily Man, copyright Jann Huizenga

I almost never feel any qualms about traveling sola in Sicily. But once in a while, if you could read the thought bubble over my head it would say, “Nitwit. Is this really a prudent thing to do?”

Do you travel alone? How cautious are you?

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Aeolian Islands Romance: The Stuff of Fiction (& Real Life)

June 5, 2014

Have you seen the super-romantic Il Postino (The Postman)? This is where it was shot, 20 years ago.

Pollara, Aeolian Islands, copyright Jann Huizenga

The tiny port of Pollara on the islet of Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

The film is fiction: it’s all about falling madly in love: a simple, shy Sicilian postman wins the heart of his voluptuous true love with a little help from Pablo Neruda and Neruda’s seductive poetry.

But reality is just as fine. In November 2005, Libby Lush, a Sydney native who was on holiday from her job as a physiotherapist was traveling sola on the island. (Sola–Did you catch that, ladies???)

In Libby’s words:

Getting off the hydrofoil alone, with nowhere to stay and no contacts, there was the strangest sensation of ‘returning home’. Something about the place felt so familiar and comfortable. Salina had a magical, mystical and romantic feel to it. A full moon added to the atmosphere. There seemed to be more stars in the sky here than I’d ever seen before…  The island was peaceful, quiet, slow moving, yet definitely not boring. As if it belonged to another era but lacking nothing. The locals were warm, fun loving, generous, tolerant and hospitable. They seemed to have found the balance for a perfect life style with family life, social interaction, work and play all in harmony. 

Libby was sitting at the bus stop one day when handsome Santino roared up and offered her a ride. How could she refuse? But that was the extent of her “holiday romance,” and when Libby left the island after 5 days, she thought her days there were over. However….

Aeolian Islands Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Libby and Santino with the village of Pollara in the background.

As fate would have it my next visit to Salina would be six months later, followed by another trip that Christmas. Destino! Santino and I were married on Salina in November 2007 on another mild mid- November day. A perfect day.

Libby has learned perfect Italian, and she’s exchanged a busy urban life for a slow rural one.

Everyday seems to bring a new surprise. Salina is a place that enters your heart and soul and never leaves. The mistake would have been not to board the hydrofoil on that mid-November day in 2005. 

She now spends her days “cooking, sweeping, writing and living ‘la dolce vita’ on the island of Salina” with Santino.

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There is a difference between existing in a place and living in a place. (Elizabeth Lush)

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Thank you, Libby, for the inspiring story of your life.

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Today’s Sicilian Surprise

December 15, 2013

Every day in Sicily brings some weird new surprise. And I mean every single day. The day before yesterday, for instance, I was approached by a man in his cups who made hound-like eyes at me and said, “Only a woman can save a lost man like me.”  Yesterday the surprise was hearing that a dastardly new tax on my house is due tomorrow. Today as I dropped a wine-bottle into the dumpster, I saw at my feet a cardboard box full of….I don’t know what. A treasure trove or pile of rubbish? (I carted it home all the same.) You be the judge.

1

Some things in the box were in twin sets, but nonetheless they emit the smell of loneliness.  Do the Grecian ladies have anything to do with Sicily’s Greek past? Who owned these oddities, and why did she ditch them?

2

Are these the most God-awful bud vases ever created, or are they handblown Murano glassware?

3In person, statuesque Cleo is nearly the size of a toilet bowl, and made of similar material. (Come and get her if you live nearby!)

4

This is my favorite of the found items, because I know it is an original Sicilian kitchen thingamajig–thin wood wrapped around a fine mesh net. But what is/was its specific use? You’d think I would know these things by now, but I have no idea if it’s an old pasta strainer, a flour sifter, a rice washer, or ???

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5

Here’s the dumpster with the box in question.

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A Pair of Painters, Sicily

August 14, 2013

The hungry Sicilian sun gnaws at my doors, chewing them to pieces.

Green door in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

 

Who do I call?

My pair of painters: Graziano and Giovanni.  (Not only do they paint, they correct my pronunciation! Thanks guys!)

A pair of housepainters in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicily is a group society. People stick like glue.

Plumbers work in pairs.

Police work in pairs.

Painters work in pairs.

Of course no one in Sicily is working NOW: it’s August! 

Are you working now, dear Reader, or lolling on some beach like a Sicilian?

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PS Happy Ferragosto!

 

Welcome to my Sicilian Kitchen


July 22, 2013

In Sicily I’ve pared my kitchen down to the bare essentials: a set of mis-matched dishes and bowls, one frying pan, a toaster. No freezer (one of the best gelato shops in the world is just down the steps). No mixer (good exercise, beating egg whites by hand!). No tea kettle (pan works, no?). No microwave.

More happy with less. Took me years to figure this out.

What I keep above my deep stone sink: two colanders, potholders knit by local ladies, a dried round of the local bread, measuring cups and spoons.

A glimpse of my kitchen in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaThe salt (sale) pot is filled with Sicilian rock salt from the Trapani salt pans. The old coffee grinder, gifted by my simpatico orange-suited garbage man, reigns like some kind of Platonic representation of  Human Sweetness.

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The Moroccan tea glasses from the Modica flea market, 1 apiece, remind me I must get back to Morocco. The little clay bird-whistle is a good luck charm from Matera, that amazing town in Basilicata that looks so much like  Sicily.

Moroccan tea glasses, copyright Jann Huizenga

The whisk, a Sicilian antique, unleashes flakes of paint as I stir my lemon gelo. I fish them out, dreaming of the Sicilian housewife who once upon a time long ago concocted this very dessert with this very whisk…kitchen stuff

Spice jars are fun to look at, even when it’s way too hot to cook.

Spices in my Sicilian kitchen, copyright Jann Huizenga

Thanks for visiting la mia cucina siciliana!!!!

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