On day two in Sicily, the main activity of the day was something that I’ve never done before: a cooking class. Italian food is my favorite food on the planet, and the mystery of how to make an authentic tomato sauce has always confounded me.
The host was Alessia, who is actually from nearby Palazollo Acreide. She runs the Smile and Food cooking class, which is actually was a schedule of events. To start, she takes clients to the fish market. Her father was actually a fishmonger, so she has an expertise of what fish to select. While here, we couldn’t walk away without trying fresh oysters.
Within the fish market, there is a restaurant where we sampled cheese, salami, olives, and other local delicacies. I had never eaten an olive in my life, but I fell in love with eating these olives immediately.
From here, it was off to an apartment located above a restaurant with a kitchen, where the lesson began. First was the preparation of the tomato sauce. The key is that after cooking the tomatoes for a few minutes, the skin must be filtered. There is a tool called a passaverdure that does this, essentially a filter. The reasoning is that the skin of the tomato is difficult to digest.
Separately, the fish was cooking. The type of fish we purchased could be cooked as steaks. There really wasn’t much flavoring necessary, as the natural taste of the fish itself was succinct.
Also cooking separately were the clams. Something interesting is that the clams are naturally salty, so no salt is required when making linguine with clams. Also, I was taught how to make pasta, but this was difficult beyond belief, so I gave up after a couple of minutes.
Finally, the two dishes were prepared, and it was time to eat! The linguine with clams was sublime.
Meanwhile, the fish was some of the best fish I have ever had. Freshness is critical with fish as the texture just isn’t the same otherwise.
The locals in Siracusa only buy enough bread, vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish for the day as there is a fresh market every morning. The refrigerators are set up for this lifestyle, as they are extremely small.
This was an experience that I had always thought was too much money, but afterwards I think it is a good investment. First, you learn how to cook local cuisine. But more importantly, an insight into local culture from a local person is obtained. That is priceless, as tourists usually don’t ever interact with any local besides a waiter.
From here, my trip of Jordan, Paris, and Italy was over, but it was an epic one to remember. Three different countries with totally different cultures, cuisines, and histories. Now it was time to go home and plan my next adventure.