Wednesday, September 9, 2009
On Friday, the next to last day, we landed in Palermo Sicily. Bob was excited to see places where his Dad had been with Patton during WWII, starting in Tunis, and moving over to Sicily. It was a rather emotional experience. Anyway, he went off to see the Roman and Carthaginian ruins, and Montreale, and maybe someday I'll get him to give me a few words to explain what all the great shots are that he took. So the photo album on facebook Med Cruise - Sicily is all his. After a drive through Palermo with a stop at (Guess??) the cathedral (same one Bob saw is turns out) my tour took us on a bus trip up the rolling hills outside of Palermo through agricultural land that really reminded me of California's Central Valley. It was a day full of memories of my grandmother. She was born in the Calabria region of southern Italy, and moved to Rome when she was about 14, before coming to the US when she was about??? 18-20. Cooking was something she did, and did well. It was her love of food passed on to her children and grandchildren that pushed me to take this tour. As we drove along, fields of vegetables were everywhere. Tomatoes were so red they look liked blobs of catsup hanging on the vines (they obviously don't have to contend with deer and squirrels). Huge cacti laden with prickly pears made me remember Nona's excitement when she came to visit us in southern California and saw these fruits in the market. She explained she was not able to get them in Baltimore and they reminded her so much of home. We arrived about 11 at the Antica Masseria Di Salvo, a 17th century villa still run by the family as a restaurant (on Sundays only). They are just branching out to B&B status with 6 rooms and they're putting in a swimming pool. We sure could have used one that day! Anyway, we were given a short tour of the villa, and then ushered into a large room where Paolo our cook instructed us in basic tomato sauce (I've already made a batch since coming home), in mellanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), vitello involtini (veal birds), a potato souffle, and almond cakes. After the cooking lesson, we were then led to a little terrace in the center of the villa, where tables were set under trees with beautiful white linens, good crystal, and lots of silverware. Lunch included the above in addition to a mouth-watering local red wine, arancineddi di risu (fried rice balls), panelli fritti (chickpea pancakes), aubergine 'caponata' (an eggplant dish with olives, capers, onions, celery and tomatoes), small bite sized 'pizza' slices, ). This was just the first course (appetizers)! Then we had risotto with ham, a Sicilian version of mac/cheese and our potato souffle (really scrumptious--email me if you want the recipe). After that the main course featured the veal birds which had been grilled to perfection, and a huge platter of some of the best Italian sausage ever to cross my lips. Can you tell I'm enjoying myself? Finally, we had a palate cleansing bowl of three different flavored gelati (strawberry, pistachio, and vanilla--the colors of the Italian flag) before being allowed the grand finale: the almond cakes which the class had rolled and shaped and dipped. I felt like I needed to be rolled and dipped back to the bus after that. Just before leaving I did buy the cookbook with all the recipes we didn't have time to make or sample. When I returned, my honey was waving from our balcony (he's that little spot up on the next to the top deck). This was the third and last of the formal nights on board- the Captain's Farewell Dinner complete with Baked Alaska, so we both settled down for a nap (we are getting OLD!!), and then got gussied up in our sparklies to go have dinner. Thank goodness we were able to get an open seating table for 8:45 because I couldn't have eaten as much as an olive much before then. A word about dinners on a cruise ship. We chose the open seating option meaning we had different dinner partners every night. This was another part of what made the whole experience so much fun. We dined with almost newlyweds from Colorado (they were on their 2nd marriage and not quite our age), a young couple from Macon Georgia, a couple from Arlington VA via Sri Lanka, a native Hawaiian (and his wife who is not) who now live in Portland Oregon, retirees, attorneys, sales managers, CPAs, and people from every walk of life, an interior decorator from British Columbia, and several others throughout the evenings. Lots of fun, and very enriching. Afterwards, we always took a stroll 'topside' before retiring to our cabin with a cup of tea , where we could sit or stand on our balcony and watch the moon, the shoreline (if we were close enough) and just soak up the wonderful sea air. One of our favorite movies is "Moonstruck" and the moon obliged us the final evenings of our cruise. It was very romantic--this doesn't look nearly as 'amore' as the real thing did! Rest of the Sicilian Countryside album is on Facebook.