Market Day, & Sins of Youth

May 27, 2015

Off to market I go. I need lemons, lettuce, leeks.

But I get distracted by the T-shirts. Where’s the one for me?

Italian T-shirt at Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

I had plenty of those, but do I really want to celebrate them on a T-shirt?

T-shirt in Italian Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Do I want to be a walking ad for Starbucks and bad grammar?

Italian T-shirt at market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Wouldn’t this mark me as the most obnoxious person on the planet?

Italian T-shirt at market, copyright Jann Huizenga

The people have not perfect English.

All made in China, of course.

Italian T-shirt at market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Dim idea writ large.

Italian T-shirt at market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Cute car; dumb text.

Italian T-shirt at market; copyright Jann Huizenga

Found it!


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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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A Story of Sicilian Bread

May 25, 2014

Sicilians revere bread. The never lay it upside down. If they drop it by accident, they kiss it. They never throw it away. Well, if it’s moldy they can, but not before apologizing to Jesus.

Since becoming gluten-sensitive, I idolize bread too. This is the round loaf sold by a man in a little truck who comes merrily tooting his way up the street everyday. Look what 80 cents will buy. I pinch it and sniff it and then prop it up on my sideboard, just so, to remind me of the good ole days when I could wolf down the entire loaf in one sitting, slathered in sweet butter and Sicilian orange marmalade.   Round of Sicilian Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga Buon Pane a Tutti! is the bread man’s mantra. “Good bread for one and all!”  It’s baked in a forno a pietra, wood-burning oven. Bread Truck in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga My favorite part about bread shopping is watching my sweet across-the-street neighbor Lina, who lives on the second floor. She tosses some coins in a basket and lowers it.

Lowered Basket for Bread in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Giorgio loads in the bread.

Hauling up bread in a basket in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaAnd up it goes with a tug of the wrist, just in time for lunch.

Hauling up Bread in a Basket in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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The Tangerine Truck

November 14, 2013

Early morning in Acireale, at the foot of Etna.  Just me and a tangerine truck on Piazza San Domenico.

Clickety clack I go over the lava stones, aiming at the orangeness.

Little Orange Truck in Acireale, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Someone appears out of nowhere.

Ciao. Is this your truck? What’s your name?




Oh, like light (luce)?

Si, si.

I crouch and shoot. He is all lightness and charm, like 99% of Sicilians I collar. He even says I can put him on the internet.

Where did you get the cauliflower?



I don’t tell him I’ve just come from there on a long grey-dawn highway, stars still burning in the sky, cursing all the trucks like his I had to pass on scary curves.  I buy a rosy head for €1.50 and wonder: how many more will he have to sell to recoup gasoline costs & eke out a living wage?

Man Selling Pink Cauliflower in SIcily, copyright Jann Huizenga

By the time I leave he’s already sweet-talking his second customer.

Man Selling Pink Cauliflower in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Buona fortuna, Lucio, e grazie.


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Don’t Touch the Veggies! (An Italian Lesson)

August 1, 2013

In Sicily, you wouldn’t dare touch the veggies yourself.*

(Hands off!)

Sicilian Veggie Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

You have to ASK for each thing.

So before you travel here, you may want to learn a word or two.

Here’s a little Italian lesson:

Can you find these foods in the picture below?: pomodori, lattuga, pere, mele, peperoni rossi, cavolfiore, arance, finocchio, asparagi, melanzane.

Sicilian Fruit and Vegetable Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Want to learn to pronounce them? Click here for a list of fruits and veggies in Italian, along with audio pronunciation.


*Except in a supermarket, but even then you’d better put on plastic gloves!


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