For almost all of my daughter’s first 12 years, she and I were on our own together. Being a single mum is tough at times but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Today, she and I have a wonderful relationship. We can talk about pretty much anything. We no longer live in the same town but we talk and text regularly. Mind you, there was a time when she figured I didn’t have much in the way to offer. It is amazing how, now that she is 21, I have become so much smarter than I was, say, 5 years ago. Yes, it’s incredible how parents manage to gain so many IQ points when their kids leave their teenage years.
Another thing at which I have “become” much better is cooking. Apparently, I wasn’t much of a cook back when she was 7, 8, 9 years old. In fact, the only thing, apparently, that I could cook that was Kraft dinner. According to her, I excelled at Kraft dinner. If, however, I tried to make, say, homemade macaroni and cheese or if I made the unforgiveable mistake of buying the no-name brand of mac and cheese, my cooking went back to being shite.
One of the tough things about cooking for an 8 year old when you are a single mother of a picky child is that the menu is frequently determined by what you can get your kid to eat. If I tried cooking something different like, say, fried okra, lamb pie or Caesar salad, she would flatly refuse to eat which meant that 50% of the family was dissatisfied with my cooking. So, I did what most mothers cooking for their family do – I cooked what my kid would eat. I did manage to get a few veggies into the Kraft dinner by chopping them up in tiny pieces and mixing them in. But, the long and the short of it was, Kraft dinner was the piece de resistance for easily a year and a half.
When my daughter and I moved in with Nick, things began to change. Suddenly, 2/3 of our family liked what I was cooking. This opened up so many doors in my culinary world and cooking became fun again. I started asking Nick about the food that he remembered his mother making from his childhood and started to learn about Sicilian and Italian cooking. Arancini, pasta alla Norma, orange salad, lasagna, and biscotti. For the most part, my experimentations were successful. The only absolute disaster that I had was trying to make ravioli. I used the wrong kind of flour and my pasta was… well let’s just say my pasta was not pasta. The filling was great so I just boiled up some spaghetti and stirred in the mushroom filling and dinner was saved.
When Nick and I bought our house in Cianciana and began to spend our summers in Sicily, a new palate of flavours increased my enthusiasm for Sicilian cooking. We explored the markets bursting with colours and tastes, sounds and smells. Visits to the restaurants in Cianciana, Ribera, Sciacca, Noto, Trapani and Palermo brought us to Sicily’s multicultural table built by her invaders. Conversations with friends and neighbours taught me new ways to put these new flavours together.
In September, I started to compile these recipes thinking I would make a little booklet to give my friends for Christmas. As they came together, I started to put some of the stories from my blog in between the recipes. Then I added pictures and nutritional information. By the time all this was finished I realized what I had was a little cookbook. Now, I don’t pretend to be a chef or even a professional – I am purely an amateur who likes to cook and thus, did not have the balls (so to speak) to send it in to a real publisher. Instead, I sent it off to Blurb where they printed a few copies for me and made it available to whomever wants it as an ebook. These are the recipes that I have tried and included with my own little twists:
- Alici a L’Aranci: Anchovies and Oranges
- Arrosto di Maiale al Limone: Roast Pork with Lemon
- Franca Tamborello’s Amazing Potato Pizza Recipe
- Insalata Fantasia di Arance: Sicilian Orange Salad
- Mele Fredde al Barolo: Cold Apples in Red Wine
- Pasta con Zucchine Fritte: Spaghetti with Fried Zucchini
- Spaghetti All’aglio: Spaghetti with Garlic Sauce
- Involtini Alla Salsa di Pomodori e Vino: Beef Rolls in Tomato Wine Sauce
- Calzone di Ragusa: Ragusa Lamb Pie
- Caponata con i peperoni: Caponata with peppers
- Pasta a “Picchu Pachhiu”: Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Garlic
- Gina and Enza’s Easy Granita
- Arancini: Deep-fried, Stuffed Rice Balls
Before I sign off, I just want to offer my sincere culinary apologies to my cousin Dana McCauley and her husband Martin Kouprie who are not only honest-to-goodness chefs but are world class, kick ass chefs with a world renowned restaurant in Toronto, Panagaea and several topnotch cookbooks, all of which are very good.