Palermo – Caltagirone – Ragusa – Modica – Siracusa
(photos are at the end of the post)
We’re two-thirds of the way through our tour of beautiful Sicily, ten of us traveling in a half-sized, very comfortable bus that does well on the narrow roads. We’ve spent three nights each in Palermo and in Ragusa, exploring the food traditions of the two regions, enjoying the scenery, and learning about this island’s history and culture too, a complex mix of influences dating back thousands of years, including ancient Greek, Roman, Norman, Byzantine, Arab, and Spanish to name a few!
The meals have all featured foods of each region we’re in, and as seasonal and local as possible, including seafood, meats, vegetables and fruits, breads, cheeses. We have all learned to pace ourselves when eating here – there is so much fabulous food to try, and Italian culture is such that they serve multiple courses at lunch and at dinner – so cleaning our plates is an impossibility. So we are getting good practice at conscious eating. We taste each bite, and savor it, and don’t keep eating out of habit.
We’ve visited a 100-year-old artisanal chocolate-maker in Modica, watched them make their chocolate and then got to taste all the different kinds. We went to a small winery that treated us to a wonderful tasting of their wines, after the vinologist gave us a tour and explanation of the process. And we all sat down to a lunch together, featuring locally made foods including eggplant caponata, Sicilian pizza, salamis, fresh and aged cheeses, and marinated olives from their own groves.
And, yesterday was our cooking class! In the morning we went with Chef Claudio to get the ingredients. Our first stop was to a local dairy farmer and traditional cheesemaker. We learned about Ragusana, the aged DOC cheese that they make, and watched them make a batch of fresh ricotta and then got to taste it – so good. Claudio purchased the aged and fresh cheeses he needed. Then on to the meat market where we tasted salamis and Claudio bought a selection of meats, and the vegetable and fruit market where we learned about how he shops and about how different varieties of the same vegetable are used in Italian cooking and why. Back at the hotel that afternoon, we divided into four teams, each team assisted by one of more cooks, and we helped make that evening’s six course dinner! From fresh ravioli to stuffed chicken to fish balls to almond mousse and more. Was great fun.
Today, we head to the northwest of Sicily, to the area of Marsala. Onward!