Monday, January 23, 2017

A TRAGIC WEEK

Both Britain and the US have had a good, or a bad, week, depending on your point of view but there is no doubt that Italy had a tragic one:

As further eathquake tremors again brought fear to Central Italy, on Wednesday an avalanche weighing 120,000 metric tonnes and travelling at 100 km per hour struck the Rigopiano Hotel in Abruzzo. So far six people have been declared dead, 23 are missing and 11 have been pulled out alive.  Among the missing is a young Senegalese, Faye Dame, who had refugee status in Italy and was proud to be the factotem of the hotel. I keep thinking of this young man who had, like so many others, come to Europe in search of a better life. He must have been so happy to have been granted permission to stay and to work and to be able to live in a little apartment near the hotel.

Geologists say the tragedy was caused primarily by three strong earthquake tremors combined with heavy winds blowing in from Siberia, much heavier snow than usual and ground that was already wet.

We were all cheered when the Rigopiano's's Abruzzese shepherd dogs, Lupo and Nuvola, were found alive and well in a village 11 km away, where they are being cared for. Lupo and Nuvola, who are symbols of the hotel, always greeted guests and enjoyed their attention. Fortune was also smiling last week upon this young man, a member of the singing group Il Volo.

On the same day, another earthquake hit Amatrice, the town that suffered so badly in the quake of 24th August. "What, in God's name, have we done to deserve this?" asked the Mayor on Italian radio. The people of Amatrice could certainly have done without Charlie Hebdo's cartoon [not for the first time] but the Mayor's response was, "We will reply to this macabre provocation with life."

Better news from Amatrice was that the first 25 wooden houses have been allocated, by ballot, to some of those made homeless by the 24th August quake.

Tonight my thoughts are with all affected by the avalanche and tremors, all who grieve and all who wait for news of their loved ones. I'm sure that yours are with them too.

Update at 16.34 on 23.1.17:

Lupo and Nuvola's three puppies have been found alive and well in the wreckage of the hotel.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

BREXIT - A VIEW FROM ITALY [2]

Most of my regular readers will know that I view Brexit as a disaster and I explained why on the night of the referendum. I have to say that my spirits have not risen regarding the matter since then and I have spent the past few days in shock and disbelief at what the UK Prime Minister said in her "Brexit Plan" speech on Tuesday.

What, though, is the general view in Italy?  We all know that members of the European Parliament- with a few exceptions including one notable British one - are fuming but reactions within Italy have generally been calmer than those in many other EU countries. But then, the Italians have not yet been insulted by Mr. Johnson

To say that the Prime Minister's speech went down well here would, however, be overstaing the case and the threatening tone she used towards the end of it did her no favours. Il Giornale di Sicilia asked how the UK can expect to enjoy free trade with the EU post-Brexit but not contribute to the EU budget and commenters on the article ranged from those who called us selfish and wanted us "chucked out now" to those who congratulated us upon "freeing" ourselves.

Several papers highlighted the fact that work permits are likely to be necessary for Italians working in Britain post-Brexit and it is ironic that this comes from a country that still demands documentation which should not be necessary under European law for non-Italian EU residents here. 

La Repubblica reported that we are going for "hard Brexit" and will therefore be "out of everything". Il Sole 24 Ore called our insistence on border control and withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice the "British Maginot Line" and I empathise with the incredulity implied - freedom of movement of people is, after all, one of the founding principles of the EU and we signed up to the organisation in full knowledge of that.

Alessandro Barbera, writing in La Stampa yesterday and referring to Mrs May's Davos speech [she's having a busy week!] asks how we can close our borders and, at the same time, claim to be a champion of free trade. He suggests that Mrs May, "the new Iron Lady", dreams of a "global Britain" but would rather it wasn't too global. Spot on, I'd say!

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has been measured in his comments, welcoming a commitment from May to cooperate militarily with the EU [made prior to Tuesday's speech and I can find no details as to the extent of such cooperation] and saying that Italy would discuss the issues with Britain in a spirit of solidarity and friendship.

Meanwhile Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said, while Mrs May was speaking on Tuesday, that the Italian government will defend the interests of Italians living and working in the UK. Now wouldn't it be nice if the "new Iron Lady" showed such concern for British citizens living and working in other EU countries?  


Monday, January 16, 2017

CONTENTMENT IN SICILY....

.... is when, on a cold day, a supply of your favourite tea reaches your favourite bar!






Saturday, January 07, 2017

SABATO MUSICALE

Tonight I would like to pay tribute to two great artistes, one Italian and one Welsh, who are eighty years young:  the Italian, Paolo Conte, celebrated his big birthday yesterday:

Paolo Conte - Via con me



Now, can you guess who the Welsh singer is? That's right - it's the one and only, amazing, Dame Shirley Bassey, who celebrates her special day tomorrow. I've chosen this track because it's always been a favourite of mine - I still have the vinyl album pictured at the beginning of the video - and because, no matter how old we are, every time we fall in love it's like this, isn't it?

Dame Shirley Bassey - I've Never Been in Love Before

Friday, January 06, 2017

WHEN A SHIRE IS NOT A SHIRE

Many of you will know that I am a great fan of MasterChef Italia, which has recently made a welcome return for its sixth season on Italian TV.  I am also an admirer of Joe Bastianich, whose biography I reviewed here and I did laugh at the pronunciation lesson that Joe gave an unfortunate contestant last night. You can see the video clip here.

However, it has to be said that Joe is not teaching British English! For those of you who are confused, the term shire means county and is usually used as a suffix, as in Gloucestershire or Yorkshire. In this case, the i is pronounced like the er in her in British English. It is pronounced in the "Joe" way in the term the shires, meaning counties. Having to deal with the eccentricities of Modican Englishitis every day, I do empathise with both Joe and the poor contestant!

Worcestershire Sauce, by the way, is a British ingredient which is readily available in Italy and I was glad to see an Italian being adventurous enough to use it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

UN PO' DI FILOSOFIA



"If you succeed in smiling 
as soon as you wake up, 
you're either a special person 
or you're a coffee."

- Seen at the Cicara Caffetteria, Modica

Sunday, January 01, 2017

SICILY SCENE'S REVIEW OF 2016

The year which drew to a close yesterday was the one in which it became clear to me that the world has learnt nothing from the tragedies and disasters of the last century. Here, a little late, is my review of it:

Ups

Most unexpectedly, falling in love again.

Spending Christmas in Norwich with the sister I have known for only two years and walking through a bauble in that fair city!



Downs

The down side of falling in love - being dumped. It is a much worse experience, I have discovered, than it was when I was young, for there are now so many places to be dumped from, such as social media.

Brexit - even more devastating.

Continuing to hear of needless migration tragedies as the world looks on and does nothing.


Recipe of the year

Of those I have invented myself, this is the one I like best.

Chicken with cedri and Prosecco


Books of the year

The two best books I read in Italian during 2016 were Pesce d'aprile and Lacrime di Sale, Dr Pietro Bartolo's account of migrant tragedies as they affect Lampedusa. I'll shortly be reviewing Lacrime di Sale on Sicily Scene.

The most interesting book I read in English in 2016 was Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Besides telling a gripping story, the book explained to me a conflict which took place during my lifetime but which I knew next to nothing about.


Film of the year

This is related to my second book choice above. It is Fuocoammare.


Italian logic prize

This goes to Rai and the Italian government for this scheme and their strange definition of the term rata [installment].  Predictably, after July consumers were required to pay not one "installment" for the TV licence fee but the remaining six in one go!


Hopes for 2017

Once again, I hope the world wakes up to the fact that we are all migrants and I want to see safe corridors for today's migrants and an end to migration tragedies. I want to hear more from the voices of peace and less from those of belligerance.

I wish you all peace, health and love, wherever you are.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading Sicily Scene!
Buon Anno e grazie di aver letto la Sicily Scene!





You can find links to all my migration posts here and to my adoption posts here.


DOMENICA MUSICALE


Buon Anno a tutti!
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

A TREE GROWS IN NORWICH



This year, I am lucky enough to be spending Christmas with my sister, Jill and other members of the family with whom I was reunited two years ago.

Tonight I would like to tell you about a Christmas initiative from Norwich Cathedral which has helped me and, I am sure, many others: Outside the Cathedral is a "memory tree" and visitors have been invited to write the names of loved ones they miss at Christmas on star decorations.  Each visitor made a donation for each star they used and the staff hung them on the tree on their behalf.

Thus, in the city where my story began, stars hang for both my mums - the one I never knew and the one who brought me up - and also for the dad who gave me so much love.

Thank you, Norwich Cathedral.



You can find links to all my adoption posts here.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

SABATO MUSICALE

Here's an old favourite:

Biagio Antonacci - Sognami

BISTECCA IN SALSA DI PISTACCHI

This week I wanted to do something different with the pizzaiola steak cut and I decided that a pistacchio and mushroom sauce would do the trick.  In Italy, you just ask the butcher for pizzaiola steak and the cut most often used for this is round steak.  I asked for pizzaiola steak for four people.  I also wanted to incorporate cedro [citron] and this is what I did:

Bistecca in salsa di pistacchi



Cut one cedro in half.  Juice one half and marinate the steak pieces in it with a little dried oregano. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours.  [This will tenderise the meat further as well as adding flavour.] Slice the other half and grill the slices quickly, on both sides, in a little olive oil on a ridged griddle pan.  Set aside.

Drain the steak and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cook the pieces in 2 tblsp olive oil on a ridged griddle pan.  Do not overcook them! Place on kitchen paper as they are ready.  

Keep the steak warm in a dish in the oven while you make the sauce:  Soften a chopped white onion in 2 tblsp olive oil in a frying pan.  Do not allow it to brown.  When it is soft, add 200 gr sliced white mushrooms.  Cook for a few minutes, then add 200 ml panna di cucina if you are in Italy or single cream if you are not.  Keep stirring for a few minutes and season.  Do not let it boil.  Off the heat, add a generous sprinkling of farina di pistacchi  [pistacchio flour - very finely ground pistacchi].

Serve the steaks with the sauce and cedro slices.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A SWEET CHRISTMAS

At the Dolceria Primavera in Modica:


Frutta di Martorana can be seen above left and right. I loved the chocolate Christmas trees.



Torrone and cobaita are shown with the liqueur, and various flavours of Modican chocolate are on the right.



There has to be panettone!


 And how nice to see a gingerbread man!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

SABATO MUSICALE

This song of lost love, to which I can relate only too well, is no. 3 in the Italian charts:

Marco Mengoni - Sai che

Thursday, December 08, 2016

CEDRO, CEDRO....



Cedro, cedro,
on the stall
is the biggest
of them all!

Well, this was the biggest cedro [citron] I had seen for a long time and it was on display outside a greengrocer's on this opening day of our annual ChocoModica festival.  I love cedri, both to eat, with seasalt and to cook with, so the sight of this one really cheered me up.

The chocolate festival, as you might expect, features lots of chocolate stalls, selling bars of all flavours, from banana to chilli to more traditional types and there were all kinds of chocolate products on sale, including liqueurs, cosmetics and even chocolate arancini [rice balls].  During the four days of the festival, there are also exhibitions, talks, tastings and demonstrations though I must say access is a problem to some of them and this needs attention.

You can watch chocolate sculptors and makers at work, though a finished chocolate sculpture would have been nice to see alongside those in production.  Perhaps that is to come.  I was fascinated by the fruit carving below but the highlight for me remains the cedro!



ChocoModica runs until 11th December and the full programme is here.

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