When I woke up on Christmas morning last year it occurred to me that it was the first time that I have woken up alone on Christmas day. I always knew that Christmas would be very quiet for me last year as I had just moved to Mussomeli here in Sicily to renovate a house that I had bought for One Euro. I did not feel alone that morning nor did I feel lonely as I knew that there were so many other people across the world whose plans for Christmas had been affected by Covid-19. During the Christmas period there were travel restrictions here in Sicily and a limit on the number of people who could congregate at your house. I felt grateful when I woke up that I had made the move here in time to apply for my Italian residency as I have wanted to start a new life here in Italy for sometime now.
I was totally prepared to spend Christmas day by myself as I had been incredibly busy prior to Christmas settling into my new home and I was looking forward to a day of rest. As is often the case in my life, magical moments can appear out of nowhere and I am happy to report that the older I get the more open I am to these magical moments happening every day. On Christmas eve I received a text from some new friends that I have made here from Brazil asking if I had any plans for lunch and would I like to join them. How kind of them, of course I said yes. My friends Bianca and her Mum Rosangela had moved to Mussomeli three months before me to apply for their Italian residency. They have been so kind to me since I arrived helping me settle into my new life here.
The weather forecast for Christmas day here in Mussomeli was very good, warm and sunny. Given the fact that I have a lovely roof terrace here in the house that I am renting, I reached out to my friends and offered to cook lunch for them here at my house. The challenge I faced of course was the fact that most of the shops had closed at that stage so I had to make do with the food that I had. I actually love this type of challenge when I am cooking, throwing open the cupboard doors and fridge to see what can be cooked with the bare minimum of ingredients. I always imagined that I would do pretty well if I was ever on "Ready, Steady, Cook"!
My thoughts turned to my family as I was preparing Christmas lunch and to a meal that we always refer to as "Picky Bits". It is my favourite way to eat, lots of small plates of food to share with loads of family and friends around the table. The produce here in Sicily is so good and so very cheap even in Winter so I had lots of delicious ingredients in my kitchen to prepare for lunch. On the menu for my Christmas lunch was orange & fennel salad, tomato & artichoke salad, a leafy green salad, bruschetta with a smashed white bean topping, cheeses & the best prosciutto that I have ever eaten in my life. For dessert I served strawberries and dark chocolate. I am not great at making desserts as I always seem to rebel against following a recipe and I invariably go off-piste and my desserts end up being quite a mess indeed.
I almost forgot to mention my secret surprise for the lunch, my homemade Pear & Pineapple jam / chutney (I still can't decide if it is a jam or a chutney...). Please don't laugh at me for adding chunks of canned pineapple, it really did seem like the right thing to do at the time. I must admit the concoction sure did go well with the Pecorino cheese even if I do say so myself! I felt very blessed when we had the lunch, new friends in a new town that is now my home and plenty of sunshine.
Our lockdown continued through to the 27th of December and on the day after I visited with some of the incredible people who I have met here and who have been so kind to me. I decided to deliver jars of my Pear & Pineapple jam as thank you gifts, risky making food as a gift for Italians I know but at the end of the day it was made with love so all would be forgiven if the jam was below par. My first delivery was to Elizio who runs the flower shop on the corner of my street. One day I walked past his shop and I popped in to ask where the supermarket was. With no hesitation Elizio grabbed his car keys and drove me all the way to the supermarket. What a kind gesture. I love the fact that he did not lock up his flower shop when he drove me to the supermarket. The second photo below was taken last year of my dear friend Salvatore. I delivered the jam to him and I nearly lost it as a tear ran down his face when I handed the jam to him. I had to make hand gestures with my broken Italian to explain that I made the jam and that I did not buy it. Salvatore lives two doors away from me and when I first met him he took my hand and through an interpreter he said to me that if I ever need any help then I am to come to him. He is 97 and was a farmer all his life from 9 to 94.
I hope that your day was as special as mine was, my first Christmas here in Mussomeli and one that I will never forget.