Ouch! Beware! The Prickly Pear.

October 12, 2015

They’re natives of the Americas, the mean spiky fruits. But prickly pear cacti have flourished in  Sicily’s climate. You have to dodge them here–they rise 20 feet tall and come at you from all directions.  Lured by a poster, we decided yesterday to celebrate the fruit I fear.

Prickly Pear Poster, Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaThe sinister plants lined the roadway, the asphalt bloody with fallen fruit.

Prickly Pears, Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaThey paid homage to the fruit in the tiny town of Pedagaggi. They ate it fresh, candied, mashed into marmalade, and cooked into mostarda— something like prickly pear gummy bears. They drank it in liqueur.

Red Prickly Pears, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Crates of Prickly Pears, Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaIn my early innocent days on the island, I bought several of the fruits and blithely peeled them, glove-less. For days afterwards my fingertips prickled with pain, as I sat in the sun pulling out ultra-fine spines with a tweezers. I have shunned the fruit since.

Use gloves with prickly pears, copyright Jann HuizengaThis bearded fellow explained that his hands are so calloused from the fields he has no need for gloves. But his wife came well-equipped. Every Sicilian has a story about American GIs in WWII, who plucked the fruit right off the plant and bit into it. This makes them laugh.

Food festivals in Sicily always attract a biker crowd, clad in old denim and black leather. They’re always the life of the party.

Sicilian Bikers, copyright Jann Huizenga


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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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