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Posts tagged ‘Vegetables’

The Sicily Series | Part II – La Pescheria, Soul of the City

You can smell Catania’s famous daily fish market, Le Pescheria, long before you approach it… that unmistakable smell of the sea tinged by an ever so decipherable pungency of putrid flesh together with the fresh zing of lemon, the fragrant perfume of fresh herbs and the pure scent of water, the neutral base note which both reflects and is imbued with the distinctive nature of the surrounding area. In Catania, that is a smell which is characterised by the scorching heat absorbed into and evaporating off the dark lava stone walls of its ancient Etna-born palazzos. Follow the scent, past the resplendent Baroque Duomo, and you find yourself in Catania’s burgeoning and frankly raucous market, starting with the abundance of locally caught fish, and spreading outward into the streets beyond where stalls loaded with fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, bread and cheeses populate every spare inch of the pavements.

The famous fish market


I have been to many wonderful European markets. Each have their own character, and every one of them is utterly captivating for the breadth of fresh produce and characterful salesmen. But Catania’s market feels more historical and more authentic than any I have visited. Gathered together among the foundations of ancient Roman ruins and decaying Medieval walls, the stalls of the fish market are collectively transportative, with the power to recall the bustle of a Roman Forum or a scene from the Renaissance. The market takes us back to the roots of modern civilisation, stripping back our senses to a basic appreciation of nature at its best: enviably fresh fish, sensationally plump vegetables, none of them the result of quality control but a product of nature’s caprice. And beyond the produce, perhaps the best thing about Catania’s market is its people, the fishermen and stall holders who are so full of passion, who will declare strong and loud that their fish is the best, outdoing one another to see who can attract the most attention, and secure the quickest sales of their freshly acquired catch.

To be accompanied by some super-fresh fruit and veg… (and cheese)


All of this combines to make a visit to Catania’s market an ultimately thrilling experience, full of noise, of smells, and of colour; shades of pink and red and green and blue whose vibrancy truly shines against a backdrop of black lava stone. This is street theatre at its thrilling best, as fishermen slice open slithering fish and proudly display their decapitated fish heads while elegantly dressed women totter in heels, neatly stepping over pools of water stained with blood. Catania is a city with real spirit and an abundance of outwardly expressed emotion, but it is perhaps in its market where Catania’s soul truly resonates.

…and some more fish


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Living off the land; moving with the seasons: The Mallorquin Huerta

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a stunning little Huerta (kitchen garden) clinging to the terraced slopes of the Mallorquin coastline. Between the dry stone walls of terraces made long ago by arab occupiers in their magnificent process of taming the otherwise unreachable landscape, this little vegetable garden lay nestled in perfect order, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. From an initial sweep of green emerged vegetables the colour of which you would be hard-pressed to find in even the best quality supermarket.

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Keen to show me the fruits of his labour, the farm manager went about collecting samples of his home-grown produce. As he created a pile of the best of the harvest, the collection before me grew in both voluptuous size and magnificent colour. From super green cucumbers and a richly purple aubergine, to wonderfully fragrant basil, bright yellow peppers and startlingly intense red tomatoes, this gathering of produce was worthy of a museum piece, rather than a humble feast.

And yet feast we did, sampling flavours the likes of which I have never had the pleasure to enjoy before. The tomatoes were so sweet, and so complex in their flavour contrasts, that the sweet sticky small tomatoes might have been an altogether different fruit from the large meaty giant tomatoes which I could have feasted on forever.

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But behind the intensity of the flavour and the quality of the produce was the rationale which went with it. These vegetables were grown in alignment with the seasons. They tasted so good because they emerged from land grown traditionally, with no additives, at the time of the year when they are meant to be harvested. No tomato, artificially grown under a lamp light in the winter could ever have tasted this good. And what struck me most of all was the pride glowing from within the farm manager. Because he had presented the very best product from his intensely laboured land – the fruit of his work, with a little help from the perfect timing of mother nature’s seasons.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.