Change

A friend of mine told me his mother was born in Brooklyn and settled in Queens. And that’s it. She’s never been anywhere else. He said, just tell her when you’re coming and what’s for dinner, and she’s good.

I tried to figure out how to settle. My mother didn’t want me to get married, but once it was done she was all for Staying No Matter What. For, I don’t know. For things the way they should be. For a solid washing machine. Or to keep the peace. Or for never saying anything ever that would hurt anybody. A disappearing act, really. Sometimes, because I practiced for so long, I can do it. When someone cuts in line. If all of the strawberries in the middle of the basket have gone rotten. Even sometimes when the arrow of an insult is aimed straight at me and hits me bullseye. But not always. Sometimes the elephant skin of my skill set isn’t thick enough to cope with the fact that I was born with emotional Tourett’s. Sometimes, the truth comes flying.

I love Sicily. There was nothing to be done about it, but go.

It’s a thing to eat a granita there with a side of a brioche bun with a topknot, for breakfast.

When the evening church bells ring, you can squeeze yourself up the stairs to the top of the cathedral in Noto, and watch the sun drop across the rooftops.

They don’t tell you this, but the guy driving the boat in Siracusa through the turquoise salt water of the Ionian Sea that’s clear enough to see 20 feet to the bottom, asks if anybody wants to go swimming at the eastern most rock formation, by the caves of the Cappuccini monks. I ripped my clothes off down to my underwear, and jumped. The salt stays on your skin like paint.

You could cry from how good the peaches are.

If you don’t like eggplant, you’re going to have to figure it out.

Pasta Norma

Thinly slice a few seriously fresh eggplants. If the seeds are invisible, there’s no need to press them. Season lightly with salt and fry in a shimmer of the best olive oil you have. Wipe out the pan. Pull the tomatoes from a can of San Marzano, and seed them. Squish them with your hand. Color 4-5 whole cloves of garlic in more olive oil with a whole peperoncino and a few basil leaves (or a rub of dried oregano.) Add the tomatoes off the heat, then turn the heat back on. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for salt. If they need it, give them a pinch of sugar. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Make the water delicious with the salt–that’s how you know there’s enough–then drop the pasta. Cook until al dente, and drain well. Save some of the cooking water. Warm the serving bowl with a pour of the cooking water, and wipe out. Add the eggplant slices. Dump the pasta (about 3/4 of a pound) onto the tomatoes and toss well. Turn out onto the eggplant slices. Rip over a little more basil and add the cooking water a tablespoon at a time, to make a silky sauce. You may need to give it a little pour of olive oil as well. Toss well, but not aggressively. Grate ricotta salata over the top and serve.

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