Man Can Live on Bread Alone
Trip Start Jan 19, 2010
4Trip End Jun 01, 2010
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Its been horribly raining and storming for the past couple days. There has been some thunder/lightning as well as incredibly high winds. Yesterday we actually had a harsh hail storm for a large part of the day. Anyone who went outside would get pellet wounds from the hard ice bullets thrashing with the wind. I’ve never been by the sea during such rough storms and so I was quite impressed by the massive waves that thrashed against the cliffs in a fury.
When it’s not hailing, although it is still quite cold here (usually hovering just below 50), it is also quite enjoyable. For instance, I was walking home from a meeting at school the other night at around 8pm and was suddenly confronted by a parade. Although some of the other American students with me were a lot more concerned with going to buy some red wine before the stores would close, I was intrigued by the large floats and musical bands that represented each church in town. So I proceeded to watch a large parade dedicated to San Sebastian, After all of the floats had passed through Piazza Del Duomo (The Large Square), the festival culminated with ten minute fireworks show that was really spectacular. This parade took place on a wednesday night, purely because this is the month of San Sebastian in Siracusa. Although I later found out that these types of parades happen often in Siracusa, I cannot believe the other students missed out on it in. I’m sorry I couldn’t take pictures of the parade and fireworks but I did not have my camera on me as I was not expecting to see the show.
In other news, I realized I have not detailed the greatest new amenity of life in Siracusa - the outdoor market. Its a bustling marketplace with multiple sellers who sell AMAZINGLY FRESH fruit, vegetables, cheeses, salumi, breads, meats, and fish. It is open almost everyday from 8AM until Noon (Monday - Saturday, closed on Sundays only) and most locals shop there every single day because freshness is of the utmost importance to every Sicilian. They only buy what they plan on using that very same day.
I’ve never truly appreciated how much superior everything tastes when its freshly picked. (You got to realize, I’m talking mean fresh! Nothing even close to those specially delivered or local organic products we pay an arm and a leg for in the US. Here, fresh means the same morning just a couple of miles away) I’ve never even been much of a fan of raw tomatoes, but now, they are sweet enough to bite into like Apples. And the chef told me that tomatoes aren’t even in season here. Go figure. And the cheeses! Holy crap, the cheeses. Mario (one of the sellers) hands me out over six or seven different pieces of Italian cheeses and cured sausages or salamis every day I pass his stand. He really enjoys how I struggle to speak Italian and never forgets to mention the sexy girls in California (at least that is what I gather from his hand motions and facial expressions -- they don’t know how to say even one word in English here).
Most importantly, the BREAD! I always ate bread and thoroughly enjoyed back home whenever it was good. That said, I am completely convinced the bread here should be classified as a narcotic drug and should be deemed illegal. I go through a full loaf (well over 3 feet long) every single day I am here. That is not an exaggeration! I repeat: that is not an exaggeration! What should be an exaggeration is going through 2 loaves in one day, but alas, that is not an exaggeration either (it only happened once though...I promise). Words cannot describe the mouthwatering yummy-delicious succulence of the different breads here. That’s right...the bread gets quadruple adjectives! In addition, I also usually go through a whole softball of freshly made mozzarella or a large mug of real ricotta that was made the same morning that I buy it. Needless to say, it tastes incredible...especially doused on top of that bread.
There are also a couple of Salumarias (Delis) near the market and I really enjoy one of the more upscale one that has been there since the 1800’s. On one of my first days here, I walked into the shop and ordered a half-kilo of Prosciutto by accident (this is over a pound of meat, all for myself...) While Andrea (the owner) was slicing me the meat, he stops for a moment, takes out a huge loaf of bread from under the counter which he proceeds to slice in half, pours on tons of olive oil, slaps on a slice of mortadella and cured sausages, puts on a slice of burata (whole buffalo milk cheese), and tops it off with a sun-dried tomato. He holds it out toward me and even though I declined, he proceeded to throw it in my face. I finally said okay and ate it as he proceeded to slice me the rest of my order. Ever since this incident, anytime that I walk into this shop, I can almost always depend on a getting a free lunch or snack. The last time I went, he broke open a case of fresh Sicilian Chocolate (made with red peppers believe it or not). It was not spicy like you’d think. Instead, it was a choclate flavor that blew me out of this world! I’ll be sure to bring some back.
Lucky for my voracious eating habits, the food here is not too expensive. Even with the exchange rate, I probably spend less than 20 dollars a week on food at the market. Unfortunately, my money is rapidly floating away from my grasp at the Pasticcerias. Now, if I want breads, biscottis, stuff foccacias, or calzones then I must go to something called a Panaficio: a bakery for things the Italians don’t consider sweet (although the biscotti and some chiaccerie (fried pieces of sweet dough with choclate and sugar poured on top) are quite sugary. But if I want something like a cornetto, a cannoli, a cassata cake, a croissant filled with chocolate, or just cookies, then I must go to something known as a Pasticceria: a bakery dedicated to sweet goods and cappicinos, where Italians normally go for breakfast and for snacks throughout the day. Everyday for breakfast I’ve been having a chocolate filled croissant or a bunch of almond cookies. This is the typical Sicilian breakfast as they tend to focus more on a large lunch and dinner. Unlike the rest of Italy where the sweets, cookies, and cakes are usually very dry and not too sugary, Sicily (because of the Arab influence) is much more my style: moist and extremely sweet. Almost everyday, I go to the Pasticcerias to buy a bag of cookies and cannolis that I plan on lasting for the whole week, but I end up eating them all in a couple of days. So unlike all the fresh foods at the market, these sweets are putting a hefty dent into my wallet so I think I’ll have to break my habit and search out some good old milk and cereal at the grocery store. Though the last time I checked, they only had about two or three different types of cereal and the milk was only available in tiny pint-sized cartons of the whole milk variety. These common things in America are simply not part of the Italian palate. (And neither is Peanut Butter...).
I think I’ve written enough about food for one day. If this blog wasn’t enough to get you guys to come visit me, I don’t know what will.