I have recently moved to Sicily in search of sunshine and a place that reminds me of home (Lebanon & Syria) but where I do not have to worry about ISIS! I am being facetious of course but Italy seems a safer bet than the Middle East these days and the great thing about Sicily, apart from the fact that it is very beautiful with lovely people and lovely food, is that the produce is just amazing, and pretty much the same as what I was brought up on, seasonal and supremely flavourful. So, I am now ensconced in Trapani which I like to compare to Beirut but cleaner and better organised, until that is my house is built, and not far from where I live is the mercato dei contadini, ie. farmers market that happens every Saturday; and this last Saturday one of the farmers had the most amazing cicoria or hindbeh that took me straight back to my mother and Jamil, my wonderful driver in Beirut who sadly is no longer with us, who used to bring my mother the most amazing bunches of freshly picked hindbeh which she would then cook in olive oil. And even though my fractured toes are still not completely recovered, I bought some to make myself some hindbeh following my mother’s recipe.
I am coming to the end of my Sicilian stay, and this year I managed to be there for orange blossom season even if I arrived at the tail end of the season. I had Amy come back to visit, and one of the first things we did was to go down to the citrus grove to pick enough blossom to make our jam. Most of the blossom had gone but there were still enough for us to pick to make our jam. And the fact that the blossom was nearing the end of its life made it easier to pick. All we had to do was to shake the branches for the petals to fall off the buds and into our basket. Well, not all the petals but at least half. Here below are pics of Amy reaching high up in the tree to get some really good blossom to add to those that fell off easily.
I seem to specialise in dramatically changing the course of my life every few years, mainly for the sake of keeping it interesting. When I was young I did it every five years or so. Now that I am older, it is every ten years or so. This year I decided to change my life again. I sold my beautiful loft to downsize in London and upsize in Sicily where I plan to build my dream house. It wasn’t a rash decision. I have been wanting to build my dream house for a few years now; and I toyed with different ideas of where to do it. Syria was once an option! Then I considered California, also France and even Spain despite not speaking any Spanish. Then one day, I decided to go to the olive harvest on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm in Sicily and while there I decided that Sicily was where I would make this happen. The landscape and way of life there are very close to those in Lebanon and Syria where I grew up, but more orderly and with no risk of ISIS ever coming close. I had been to Sicily before but living on Mary’s farm in my own little casetta made me feel that the island was where I could feel I was going back home without actually doing so. And so it was. Mary introduced me to a friend of hers, Giovanni Matta, who took me to three different plots in one single day and the last one turned out to be the perfect spot. I must have been born under a lucky star!
I am slowly moving towards another momentous step in my life with the possible purchase of a spectacular plot of land in Sicily where I will build my dream home. Well, perhaps not quite a dream house but certainly one with a separate laundry room and cinema room, and with gorgeous views whichever way I turn, although perhaps not as varied as those on Mary Taylor Simeti’s farm where I am spending more and more time getting used to life in Sicily. And one way of getting used to life in a new country is to cook the local food which I did recently, grilling stigghiole (baby lamb’s intestines) with Mary and Tonino, her lovely husband. I should really be frank here and admit to having done nothing apart from watching them do the grilling.