Monday, July 25, 2016

My Favorite Part of My Visit to Sicily

My favorite event of my holiday in Sicily was a cooking class at a farm (Fattoria Mose')/B&B/cooking school in the Villaggio Mose' in Sicily.

Our tour group arrived about 5PM at the most charming sight. A working farm with chickens, a rooster, many cats, many dogs, many plants, olive trees, almond trees. verandas, long oil clothed tables for dining al fresco underneath shade trees on the veranda.

chickens in the garden

bougainvilla on the veranda

Inside the farmhouse, a "classroom" with long tables set out with dangerous looking knives for many budding gourmands. And a busy kitchen, of course.

We were tutored by the head chef and her advanced pupils. note: it looked, to me, like the pupils lived at the farm and the ones we met were quite advanced. They run  B&B on site as well, therefore, there is much opportunity for the pupils to have food prep experience. I later discovered that a stay at the  B&B costs $50 per night!!! That almost floored me. I would give a guess that a stay at a B&B of that caliber in the U.S. would be at least $100 per night.

When we arrived, the executive chef had already started chicken Marsala and was working on eggplant Parmigiana. On the kitchen counters, we saw a pile of ground almonds (produced on that farm) waiting for their next step in becoming truffles for dessert. On the same counter, we watched as the crust of a crostata de marmellata was created by a pupil of the school. She had previously preserved the marmellata (a mélange of several fruits).

In the kitchen - chicken Marsala on the stove - ground almonds - genesis of a crostata

Meanwhile, in the big room with the long tables, were the dangerous looking knives and wooden cutting boards, we played sous chef to the executive chef as we all prepared and put together a potato, artichoke, cheese (caciocavallo), onions, capers, and bread crumbs drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (produced right there) casserole bake.

the makings of the potato-artichoke bake

Next came those ground up almonds tossed into a pan with a simple syrup, then (when cooled a bit) kneaded together into a dough. Brought into the "classroom" for the sous chefs to roll into tiny balls, then rolling the tiny balls, some in cinnamon sugar and some in cocoa. That was part of our dessert (truffles).

pinch off a bit of dough-roll into a tiny ball-dust with cinnamon sugar or cocoa

Part II of dessert were orange roses (arancia de canella). We, the sous chefs, pared oranges, removing all the peel (down to the orange segments). Then the oranges were sliced in a spiral and wound into the form of a rose. These were arranged on a large plate, cinnamon sprinkled on them and a few mint leaves for garnish.

truffles and arancia roses with dusting of canella garnished with mint
the crostate de marmellata - lattice created by a tourista - hence the primitive lattice - still tastes good

finally - mangia - mangia
Surprisingly, there was much more to dinner than our neophyte sous chefs prepared. Our hostess had some food prepared off site and added to the glorious dinner that our little group helped to prepare. All in all, this experience was the star of the show.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sicily ~ Part IV ~ Churches

My visit to Sicily did not major on churches but more upon the history, archeology, conquerors, etc. of the island. However, the island is dotted with churches. Indeed, the wealthy landowners of old had chapels in their homes along with a resident priest and possibly a few nuns to do the praying for the family.

This tiny little chapel was right next door to the Hotel Centarium in Castellamare Del Golfo


                      Discovered this "Holy Family" sculpture in a little church in Erice


The 4 pictures above were taken in the Church of Saint Francis
(San Francisco)
This church is getting a "face lift"
Millions on uneven stone steps here. This church is in Palma de Montechiaro, includes the  Benedictine Monastery.
Worshippers lining up in front of this church in preparation for a procession
That was quite an interesting sight and one which one would only see in Italy. A religious procession in the center of Palermo.
The church buildings in Italy are awe inspiring because they are so ornate, full of amazing art treasures, many erected when building construction was in its infancy (no cranes, no electricity, no modern construction materials.) The care, talent,  expense, time and labor that it took must have been monumental. I feel so blessed to have been able to experience it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sicily ~ Part III ~ Greek Temples

One of the highlights of my visit to Sicily was seeing so much history. The island of Sicily was first inhabited by the Greeks who wanted to make the island a Greek colony, thus gaining more land on which to farm to feed their burgeoning population. Sicily was thought of as the "Garden of Eden". The soil was so fertile, being made up of mostly volcanic ash. It was also situated favorably for sea trade with the surrounding nations.

However, Sicily has a thorny history of many nations all wanting to conquer whoever was the ruling party of the day. The Phoenicians, Carthagenians, Moors, Spaniards, the French, the Normans, the Tunisians.....................

My tour of western Sicily was led by the head of the Italian Department of a local college. She did her PhD dissertation on the life of Luigi Pirrandello, a native of Sicily, who was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize for literature. It is my belief that she (the Professore) knows everything there is to know about Sicily (the history, the language, the geography, the religions, the weather patterns, the sea surrounding it, and then some. This set of circumstances led to a very history oriented tour. We did not just walk upon paved streets, and nice, even sidewalks, visiting churches and museums, eating at quaint bistros and sipping latte machiatos, although we did that as well. We also climbed mountains in 80 degree heat with sandals on! We scaled hills consisting of sand, rocks, pebbles, stones and tree roots.

Valle Dei Templi is where we're headed

Temples were erected on the highest spot of land available, in order to give proper honor to the deity plus a birds eye view of his/her loyal subjects all spread out at his/her overseeing/ruling feet.

The Greeks had many gods, and built many temples. Among those we visited were temples of Zeus, Hercules, Hera, Demeter, Persephone and the Acropolis.

One thing about temples is: they all look the same. It seems there's a prescribed architectural plan. The temples the Greeks built in Sicily were built from 800 to 500 years before Christ. Many of  them are showing signs of age but not all. I understand that it took approximately 20 years to build a temple at a time when the life expectancy was 40 years!

You can see the steps down from the temple. On the lower level was the altar.

I was amazed at the design of the temples. They had an inner room, completely dark, in which the god dwelt plus much treasure. Around this inner room, there were open and sunlit corridors, with pillars surrounding on the outer walls. Then steps down to the lower level where the ordinary people gathered to make sacrifices to the god. Our guide described this as a "Barbeque" because, usually, an animal was sacrificed on the altar which was situated outside of the temple, on the ground level. Some of this sacrifice was offered to the god. Then the worshippers enjoyed the barbeque.

This all sounded familiar to me because of what I read in my Bible of the directions that Jehovah God gave to Moses regarding how to build a residence for Him. He gave specific instructions about every detail. I find it amazing that His specifications for worship were followed by later generations. He was the originator of the temple building architectural plans.

It is my understanding that the Hebrew nation is now living in the year 5776. If the Greeks built the Sicilian temples 800-500 years before Christ, they were built approximately 2800 years ago, (3000 years ago, give or take).  That means about 2700 years before the Greeks built the Sicilian temples, the children of Israel built a temple to their one and only God, Yaweh, erecting it according to the precise specifications that the Lord gave to Moses.

I am amazed by this..........