Not born Sicilian
We arrived at my cousin’s place about 1:30 p.m., perfectly timed to share the late and expansive meal Sicilians have about two in the afternoon. A small, fun party was held that evening. The next day we traveled to the reception site, an elegant seaside resort about an hour’s drive along the coast, to help tie ribbons on the chairs in the already elegantly decorated banquet room. My guess is that Suzzie’s to-do list for the wedding ran to about 100,000 and this was number 979,533 or something.
That evening we dined out with the wedding party, and the following morning we had to check out of our room at 11 a.m. even though the wedding wasn’t until 4. We spent the afternoon at Suzzie’s place watching the bride, the mother of the bride and her sisters getting their hair done and makeup applied by a stylist and artist hired for the occasion.
I meant to wear a suit and tie to the wedding but the best laid plans often wind up with a dress shirt that is no way in hell going to button at the neck. As I get older, I get thicker, and it’s been a decade since I wore the shirt. So no tie was to be seen around this neck at the nuptials, but it was okay because Suzzie had already told all the Italians that Americans, especially her cousin, dress differently.
The Italians, of course, were dressed to the nines. All the guys had black suit coats over white long sleeve shirts with French cuffs finished off with black slacks and shiny shoes. The gals were also smartly attired: I’ve never seen so many stiletto heels in one place in my life. I wanted to take pictures but Sabra stopped me.
The 500-year-old church was beautiful but not air-conditioned. Billed to be a short service, the minister dragged it out a bit by getting off script. I don’t understand Italian but later learned that he talked about the bride and groom. He baptized both as babies, taught them in catechism class, gave them their first communion and now was marrying them. I’m sure it was quite touching, and the bride and groom were glowing.
The service was over soon enough and we were off to the reception and the banquet of a lifetime. The meal started with aperitifs of baked clams and boiled octopus. The latter was especially spectacular as servers pulled the unlikely looking critters from boiling caldrons with long tongs and then gently shook them to make them look alive. Next, they were tossed onto a cutting board and sliced to order much like roast beef is often served here.
“Do you like sucker or no sucker?” I think they asked.
Then we went inside to the recently beribboned banquet room set up for the 200-plus guests. While the food was being served a talented violinist strolled from table to table playing delightful tunes. As each course arrived his music stopped and prerecorded fanfare played over speakers as the sharply dressed waiters marched in with great silver platters held proudly in front of them.
Foods of the sea was again emphasized.
The first course was a bed of lettuce piled high with thinly sliced salmon and swordfish, crayfish and jumbo oysters served on the half shell. Next came the pasta including risotto with shrimp, crab-stuffed ravioli covered with cream sauce, and spaghetti tossed with cheese and tomatoes. This was followed by the main course of fried grouper and grilled halibut with a side of potatoes and mushrooms. Then we had wedding cake with ice cream followed by platters of fresh fruit. To finish the evening off, a little cantina opened in the back offering coffee, gelato and sweet liquors.
As I’ve detailed many times in this space I have an appetite of some renown, but I must confess somewhere during the evening I was full, stuffed to the gills. I looked at Vic and said, “I don’t think I can eat anymore.” He responded with, “we have a saying here in Sicily ‘if you’re full keep eating and soon you’ll be hungry again,’” and he passed me the pasta.
I tried another ravioli and rued that I wasn’t born Sicilian.