Today I will give you more than one picture because just one could never do the experience justice.
Across across the street from our house, Distefano Salumeria & Fromaggi was one of the first places I ventured into when we moved to Sicily. I was unable to speak more than a few simple words and point at what I was interested in buying.
From my first visit they were always patient with the ignorant transplanted American, but I was always under the watchful eye of Mama. My husband would have me go to the shop alone simply because he was uncomfortable with how cautiously watched us. Most Sicilians are fairly cautious until they get to know you. There is definitely no hey-how-are-yous when passing strangers in the street.
The mother of the shop owner is a traditional Sicilian woman who spends most of the day looking like a disapproving grandmother. All older Sicilian women have this frowning look about them, and given their role in the household one could understand why they’d look so pissed off by the time they reached their golden years. Seriously, if scowls where money this would be one of the richest places in the world.
Women are still very much the keeper of the house, the whole house. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, feeding, being a fastidious mother and attending wife, and with all this some even keep a regular job. I should also mention they do all this while wearing the most ridiculous high heels you’ve ever seen.
The first 6 months here I had no job so I played the role of housewife. I would make daily trips to various fruit stands, vegetable carts, and of course Distefano’s (If you knew what their prosciutto tasted like, you’d understand). This is where I learned most of the base language, a mixture of the Sicilian dialect and Italian that I’m sure any language teacher would slap me on the hands for speaking.
The day I learned how to make cannoli is one of my fondest and dearest moments with these women. I explained to them in my Italian cavemen speak what I was trying to do. Something like, “Me want cannoli. My kitchen. I kitchen. What”. I was then grabbed by the hand and taken around the shop in whirl of pointing and miming of how to make this very important and traditional dessert. I think that’s when Mama knew I was okay.
Around the holidays I’ve made it a point to drop off various American baked goods like brownies, rice crispies, and fudge. They are always thankful and insistently pushing fresh ricotta or some sort of cake into my hands before leaving.
I don’t see them as often now that I do work but every visit is a social affair with cheek kisses and caveman conversation of how-are-yous.
Today the Mama held my hand and rubbed it saying several times “Bella donna” (beautiful woman) till the point where I no longer knew how to respond.
These two ladies have made my experience here in Sicily so special in so many ways. Who knew deli meats could make such friends?