For my whole life, when people asked me “What are you?” (back when it was PC to ask that question) I would answer, “Sicilian.” Not Italian. Sicilian.
Truth be told, my grandfather was from Basilicata in southern Italy, and my mother’s folks were mixture of Austrian, Irish, and God knows what else. For all intents and purposes, none of that mattered. The influence of the matrilineal line of my father’s family was so pervasive, so all encompassing, so organic, that being Sicilian was woven thread by thread into the very fabric of my life. Being Sicilian is a comfy blanket that I wear like a mantel over my shoulders. It gives me warmth, color and an excellent recipe box.
So, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to getting back to Sicily. Until I got there. As I began my first walk around old Palermo, I had a visceral, cell-deep reaction that screamed “What the hell are you doing here? Get out. Get out.” I was stunned. At my reaction and at myself.
You’re tired, I told myself. You’ve been on the go 24/7 for two weeks. Fatigue is muddling your thoughts and making your emotions flare. I had a week to go, so I’d better calm down, I thought. That’s when the Sicilian mantle spoke up from my shoulder. “Have something to eat,” it said. “You’ll feel better.” Continue reading