My childhood memory about food is as tasty and prickly as an artichoke. And just on artichokes it’s based. It’s not exactly a memory of mine, my mother has been repeating the story in which I risked my life for food since I was a child.
I am about one or two years old and, for Easter holidays, my family and I have decided to spend a day in a old farm house in the countryside around Trapani. This rural building is very traditional and it looks like a cloister with a central courtyard and low rooms all around. Very close to an ancient Roman house.
Not unexpectedly, but unfortunately for me, today, by the Sicilian tradition, our host – a very old fashioned farmer with his tanned, rugged face and coppola-hat– has decided to light a bonfire. After a few hours, a fiery bed of embers, large as a blanket, lies in the centre of the courtyard. The farmer, staring at it and thinking it’s time, thrusts two or three dozen artichokes straight in the embers. A primeval, maybe unusual, but extraordinarily smelly way to cook them.
That wonderful smoky smell of artichokes catches my interest. In those times I was just an urban chubby child, mostly used to crawling, than walking. Before my parents can realize it, I’m walking on embers, trying to get that exciting, thorny, but inviting object that was fixed in the coal.
I can still remember the strong hand of the old farmer, who saved me from burning like an artichoke (nonetheless, it was too late for my shoes) and gave me back safe and sound to my parents.
Looking back at it, everybody pulled my legs, telling I would have been able to face a burning fire (exactly as Saint Lawrence, a martyr dead on ardent embers in the catholic tradition, whose name I bear). But only for good food.