Love & Laurels

December 9, 2015

When you get your university diploma in Italy, you are laureato  (lau-ray-áh-toe), literally “crowned with laurel.” Some graduates still wear the bay leaf wreath, a tradition dating back to ancient Greece, when poets and scholars were so honored (thus “poet laureate” and Nobel Laureate”).

I found this laurel-bedecked graduate wandering the streets with his Botticelli maiden.

Graduation in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaWhen he saw my lens, he pulled her in for a smooch, Latin-lover style.

Laurel Crown in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga Long live laurels. Long live love, lads and lasses. Evviva l’Italia.


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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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Poppies & Happiness

April 27, 2015

Poppies spring from the old stone steps.poppies, copyright Jann HuizengaA wind blows as I clatter down all 100 of them to the village “drawing room.” But in the piazza there’s warmth: we’re cocooned by the cathedral and buttery palazzi all around. The sun keeps my foamy coffee warm.
cappuccino, copyright Jann HuizengaAn old car gleams with nostalgia out on the street.

fiat 500, copyright Jann HuizengaTwo carabinieri saunter by in suits with a bright red stripe. They always travel in pairs. Brioches bake just inside the door. Bells roar. Umbrellas and birds flutter about. Even my hair is clean and smells good as it blows over my face. I scrawl in my notebook. Could there be a more perfect moment?

The piano teacher shuffles by and asks where is il marito, the husband? A constant concern of his.

Now all that remains in my cup is foam. I take the tiny spoon and scrape and scrape. I cannot bear for this moment to end.

Along comes Salvatore, 96.

sicilian elder, copyright jann huizenga

He tells me stories, this time about how he helped to plant the towering palm trees on the piazza as a kid. I love(d) these palms with a mad passion; four of the six have just been chopped down. (Big brown bugs.) My happiness quotient drops to 90%, fretting about it (again).

There’s the clanking of glass as the barista with rock-like biceps plunks an ashtray on every single table. A pigeon swoops by, too close.

Three tourists labor up the hill toward the cathedral. “No! Go away!” I don’t actually yell this, though I want to. Out come the purple iPads, raised high overhead like golf trophies. My happiness quotient drops to 85%.

Here comes long-lost chain-smoking Giorgio, with his long grey ponytail. He helped plaster my old wine cantina. We kiss hello; talk 15 seconds; kiss goodbye–lots of kissing with a few cliches thrown in for good measure. Happiness quotient bounces back up.

Do I have a right to be happy? People are dying in earthquakes, sinking in rickety boats in the Mediterranean. Joy brings guilt. I get up to visit Suleiman, a refugee from Ghana being housed in the village. For five months he’s been lost in the Italian legal system. Will he ever find happiness?

ghana refugee in italy; copyright Jann Huizenga




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.


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?


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!)


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 ???



Here’s the dumpster with the box in question.


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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.


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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