Monday, March 21, 2011

The holy pasta

We met up with our new friends in their Pasticceria at midday. They had prepared a couple of aperitifs for our arrival, deep red and sweet cocktails tasting of orange and ginger. After enjoying the drinks and politely refusing any more of their wonderful “dolci”, we got straight into two cars and headed off towards our unknown destination.

What we had understood was going to be a barbeque turned out to be an outdoor pasta cook-off, much like the feast of San Giuseppe we attended the day before. However, this was clearly more of a private party than a town event. From what we gathered later it was get-together of shop owners from a small quarter of Ribera.

There were about eighty people in total, from grandmothers to babies. The women were dashing in and out of the house bringing bowls and spoons, while the men stood around the giant pots, tending to the fires and stirring the pasta. The clear blue skies of the morning had turned to rolling dark clouds, which gathered ominously overhead. The hosts must have sensed that rain was coming, because as soon as the pasta was cooked it was rushed into the large covered marquee and followed quickly by everyone else.

The moment everyone had found a seat in the marquee, the heavens opened and rain poured out of the sky. Perhaps the priest, who had arrived five minutes earlier to bless the pasta, had given the hosts an inside tip?

The holy pasta turned out to be delicious. We chatted more with our new friends, which wasn’t always easy given our language barrier, and shared the pasta around the table. Everyone else in the marquee also seemed to be having a great time, children were running around, and their parents were chatting and laughing. Eventually all the pasta was polished off, and it was out with the “dolci” - supplied by our new friends. A huge tray-full was brought to our table, and we were able to try a few new specialities, as well as some old favourites.

After we had finished eating desert, it was time to feed the little one. Pulling a blond and blue-eyed baby out of her pushchair seemed to cause something of a stir at the nearby tables. By the time we had finished feeding her, a sizeable crowd had gathered. Everyone wanted to hold, touch or kiss her. “Bellisimo!” “Bella!” A small group of teenage girls seemed particularly taken with her, and followed her round for the rest of the party.

When all the “dolci” had been eaten, the hosts brought out huge baskets of Ribera oranges. Ribera oranges were brought back to Sicily by ex-emigrants to America, and they are the largest and juiciest oranges we’ve ever tasted. The perfect end to a wonderful party.

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