I am just back from California where I was hoping to go to the olive harvest but I never got the time. A few weeks earlier I was in Lebanon and I had intended to do the same down south but I was there too early. Thank goodness I went to Sicily in between, and in time for the olive harvest at Mary Taylor Simeti‘s beautiful farm near Palermo, Bosco Falconeria. Believe it or not it was my first ever olive harvest despite having grown up in Lebanon and Syria, both lands of the olive. Mary reckoned that the reason must have been that I was at school during olive harvest. She may well be right — we only went to Rechmaya where my uncle had his olive groves in the summer.
Sicily is the land of sweets. In the old days, the nuns made them in convents. A few still do but nowadays you need to go to pasticcerie or regular bars to sample the amazing range although not all will be good. Two days ago we had a very poor gelato but we struck it lucky this morning when Mary took me to eat the best cannoli ever in the most unlikely place, an ugly hamlet called Dattilo that is home to a few hundred people. I don’t know if the place is mafia land but I am sure that any gangsters there will do the same as the Godfather character and leave the gun for Euro Bar’s cannoli! From there, we went up to Erice, to Maria Grammatico who had made the heart that Mary gave me for my birthday — Mary wrote all about her and her sweets in the brilliant Bitter Almonds. I was hoping to buy a heart but Maria had been travelling, so, we made do with an incredibly delicious Genovese (top picture) plus a whole selection of marzipan sweets for me to take home!
I arrived yesterday in the mist and fog and I worried about how I was going to take nice photographs of the olive harvest but the weather this morning was just glorious and warm enough for me to have my coffee outside. So, I thought I would share this lovely moment with you! And as of tomorrow, I will start sharing the olive harvest, the pressing of olives, a visit to Maria Grammatico, and other Sicilian adventures.
I have a wonderful Italian friend who always brings me delicious offerings when he returns from his travels. Sopressata from his wife’s village in the north of Italy or delicious salame from Milan but this last week, he came to dinner bearing the most wonderful slab of bresaola from Switzerland — in fact bresaola is from Italy’s Valtellina Valley while beyond the border it is called carne secca dei grigioni (grison’s dry meat). Anyhow, today I brought out one of my best knives to cut myself a few slices for lunch.