Memories of an exciting experience, all based on typical Sicilian recipes!
My love for the United States has been unconditional and visceral for a long time now. It’s not the first time I’ve been to America, in fact, I visited these beautiful places ten years ago, and I immediately became fascinated by them.
Even more so now after the three weeks I spent in New York and New Jersey at the beginning of this year, bringing my Sicilian cooking classes to American soil.
Since the beginning of Go Sicily, my passion for cooking and desire to share my knowledge have allowed me to meet truly extraordinary people who have encouraged me to come to them, plan new journeys and “spread the word” of traditional Sicilian cuisine as far away as the United States of America!
It was certainly not a light-hearted decision but the idea of starting such an interesting adventure prompted me to try.
This latest American trip was my third visit, but the affection I received from the people I met moved me as if it were the first time!
Hard to believe?
For me too, but, fortunately, I never get used to it!
I believe it is this aspect that really makes the difference and permits me to live this experience in a way that is always new and unexpected.
For this reason, I felt the need to better involve those who have followed me for a long time, and to recount here, in my own way, this important and significant journey!
From Favara to America: here are the preparations for the journey!
Since the Go Sicily project began, many of my cooking class participants in Italy expressed a desire to repeat the experience in their own kitchens, perhaps involving their family and friends.
Most of my “students,” especially the Americans, invited me to join them in their homes and to bring some Sicilian recipes with me in order to introduce their loved ones and those who love our food and wine culture to them.
As a result, I decided to start taking short trips to the United States.
In this way I have the opportunity to hug again those who I met in Favara and to offer engaging cooking lessons to those who still don’t know me!
Once again, I got organized quickly this year and in less than a month, thanks to the collaboration of friends and American tour operators, I created a schedule that kept me busy for three intense and exciting weeks! Above all, the element I preferred to handle with extra care was the promotion of my homeland to the fullest: making known beyond the ocean some of our typical excellences such as oil, aromatic herbs, crochet creations and much more.
The departure: how good cooking creates new friendships
My journey began on January 29th in the best possible way!
I showed up at the airport with three huge suitcases full of Sicilian delicacies that weren’t particularly easy to bring aboard (each weighed more than the permitted amount).
Despite this I left with a great desire to make my wonderful region known and, if I have to be honest, I was also very proud.
For a moment I felt like I was an ambassador of culture: I was promoting Sicily through my experiences and, above all, with a suitcase full of excellent ingredients!
As soon as I set foot on New York soil, there was no shortage of chills!
Both for the icy cold that greeted me – the snow was a wonderful setting throughout the entire trip – as well as for the excitement that overwhelmed me as if it were the first time!
I also felt as if I were at home because, for the most part, I was hosted by former Sicilian cooking class students, whom I now regard as members of my family.
The tour was organized after collecting the requests of those who wanted to host the lessons as well as those who wanted to be a part of them.
On this basis, I grouped the various stops into three very specific areas, so as to meet more people and accomodate their logistical needs.
Where we got our hands in the dough
I preferred to meticulously plan every aspect of the Sicilian cooking lessons that I would do in the States, so that participants were aware of everything in advance and could organize themselves accordingly.
I also planned the different menus while still in Sicily.
Unexpectedly, many of my contacts even asked for recipes before I arrived so they could be ready for the lesson!
Since the trip would last three weeks (from January 29th to February 21st) I decided to divide it into three parts: the first stop would be in New York, the second and third in New Jersey in the north and south respectively.
In this way I had the opportunity to get my hands in the dough in typical American kitchens but also in very special locations: restaurants, associations and cooking schools.
In the end, I got to see it all!
I was struck by the warm hospitality and the relationship created with all the participants who, for each lesson, were about fifteen.
In fact, by the end of my interesting journey, I had met almost a hundred wonderful and heartwarming people who left me lasting memories!
My new friends in the States
In addition to my former students (whom I previously met in Favara) I passed my culinary secrets on to their families, friends and colleagues who were very curious and particularly involved!
Those who made their homes available created a family-like and informal atmosphere that made me feel right at home.
Additionally, with the collaboration of the extremely supportive tour operators, I had significant help for all the practical aspects of my trip.
Thanks to perfect organizing, I easily juggled between the stoves of home kitchens and those a pinch more professional as, for example, when I did show cooking at the Cacio e Vino restaurant and an important event at the American Wine Society.
These experiences always surprised me in different and unexpected ways.
What moved me most was how, after every encounter, everyone expressed a growing desire to visit my beloved Sicily!
Many of these are truly fans of Sicilian food and wine culture, and some were even of Sicilian origin!
It is no coincidence that, during my cooking classes, I heard curious mutations of Sicilian-American words but also bizarre definitions of typical dishes!
Other important satisfactions were given to me by the sweet baby chefs I met who proved themselves to be among the most attentive and professional!
The classes were also quite heterogeneous: both women and men, as well as the young and not-so-young participated, as well as the very young.
Most participants tried to improve their existing knowledge-base in the kitchen, but some were starting from scratch.
Despite this, each of them enjoyed every single dish and enthusiastically asked me to write down the recipes for future use!
Let’s finally cook: the typical Sicilian dishes we prepared!
For the preparations I focused on seasonal ingredients and even kilometer 0, local ones (why not?).
I tried to enhance the raw materials I had available, in order to propose, to the best of our abilities, typical dishes of the Sicilian tradition!
In each class I always tried to change the menu to offer a variety of tasty creations:
● cavatelli with broccoli (main dish and the most fun to prepare)
● freddi cu l’ova
● stuffed squid
● ricottamisù (rigorously prepared by “eyeballing it”)
● dried tomatoes
● orange salad
These last two delicacies (among all the dishes) were the most appreciated, in particular due to the unusual mix of flavors and that combination of the salad.
Fortunately, through the contribution of the Sicilian excellences that I brought with me and also thanks to some Italian products that I found in various specialized American shops, I was able to achieve remarkable and memorable results!
Although many participants had some confused ideas about Italian food… Some surprised me with fun questions like:
“Do you eat pasta accompanied by caponata?”
“Do you bake cavatelli after you make them?”
It was nice to explain – in an ironic way – the basics of Sicilian cuisine and respond to these and other curiosities!
By now, those who have met me know that in everything I do I try to convey the passion for my territory, as I consider it the undisputed queen of hospitality and good food.
For this reason, throughout the American experience, I managed to entice many of my students to take a trip to Sicily and visit all its beauties.
What can I say, I am particularly proud of the results achieved by my important mission!
Memories and reflections on my American experience
Along all my exciting stops I had the opportunity to make numerous reflections about some overseas trends and preferences.
1. The participants were crazy about nuts and also appreciated the other products I had brought with me (dried tomatoes, fresh aromatic herbs, extra virgin olive oil).
2. In the USA there is a return to origins: small shops and delicatessens offering numerous Italian excellences are increasingly widespread.
3. Americans (of all ages) love to cook as we all used to: hands on and simple preparations but rich in flavor.
4. All the students were fascinated by Sicilian history and tradition, so when I tell them about preparing the dishes, they also listen carefully to the myths and legends associated with them.
What’s more, it was very fun, whenever I started to speak in Sicilian dialect, to confront myself with some of their linguistic nuances I didn’t know at all.
In short, a real hoot!
My lessons turned into real shows where everyone is a protagonist.
In the end my entertainment consists in doing what I love: preparing simple disheswith your own hands, in the company of wonderful people!
Thanks to all of you!
I would like to thank all of the splendid friends I met during this wonderful journey, who left me unforgettable feelings!
Thanks to them I was able to introduce people to my passion and the place I love!
Everyone, in their own way, contributed to my mission and it was a real pleasure for me to promote and support many small local businesses!
The only negative aspect of the experience was the return: I didn’t want to leave so many friends and the United States that welcomed me with so much affection and that, as always, fascinated me!
I can divulge, however, that I’m already planning my next trip!
There will be many new features and I will be delighted to cook in unexpected locations.
Follow me on social media and take a look at my blog to stay up to date!
If you are interested in participating in cooking classes or hosting cooking lessons at home or in your restaurant, please contact me!