Thursday, July 11, 2013

Golden Arancini

Before Italy, I had never been outside the U.S. Among my scrupulous expectations of fine cuisine, cute girls, and long sandy beaches divided by coral blue sea, I did not expect the summer sun to also bring out the hearts of the Sicilian people. A cliché, I know. But if I’ve learned anything aside from intensive Italian language and the illustrious cult of hair styling, it’s that the Sicilian’s open culture of love is best expressed through the culinary arts. And at Catania, developing a massive addiction to balls — I mean arancini balls — means you’re a normal, mentally-functioning human being (I’d like to think people who dislike arancini don’t really exist, because they don’t)

Not that any written account will suffice in capturing the essence of these marvels, but I’ll give a quick description: arancini balls are golden, crispy, just simply made to be eaten. At the heart of this Sicilian delicacy contains rice coupled with Mozzarella and the most savory meat sauce (ragù) that will ever lay rest on your taste buds. Put down that heart-disease filled burger, steak, bacon, all things American, and remind yourself what actual food is supposed to taste like. Ok, I like over half those things I listed, but the point is, arancini balls are ten times better, and the reason why isn’t  just the combination of culinary intellect, fresh ingredients, or a craftsman’s hand.; it’s the Sicilian culture itself.
Freshly Made "Golden Arancini"

The tenderness which quickly replaces the hard, golden surface from initial bite is an extension of the hearts of the Sicilians. Whether they’re locals, students, professors, bartenders, or restaurant owners, it is without a doubt that Sicilians have one of the largest capacities for love; the arancino is but just one expression of it. Once the savory taste settles, that love of friendship, of laughter, of life endures until the very last piece. A sense that’s priceless, warm, and golden to the core.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Open-Hearted Sicilians

Aci Trezza
I arrived in Catania on May 29, a few days before the program started, to explore the city a few days on my own and acclimate to the time zone. I have now visited ten foreign countries and studied abroad three times, but Sicily is by far my favorite place abroad. I wanted to enroll in CET Sicily because the island really does not have many tourists. I also wanted to make lifelong friends—and even though I have been here only two weeks, I feel I have done just that. The program brochures were understating the truth when they claimed that Sicilians have open hearts—honestly, they are some of the friendliest people I have met in my entire life.

When I have not been in class, I have walked around the city, where people are just insanely friendly. Even the first day I was here, I ascertained that Sicilians want to make new friends just as I do. I go into shops and just strike up random conversations with the owners, and so do some of the other locals around here.

Last week, I went into one of the shops to buy a ring for my mom.  I sat down and started talking to the owners, and they asked me what would appeal to my mom. I managed to receive an even larger discount than what the sale originally was because they said I “am a very nice person.” I actually did not even try to bargain it!

My Italian skills have skyrocketed even though I have been studying Italian for all of two semesters. I am honestly in shock and disbelief about the compliments the native Italian speakers have given me about my Italian language abilities. They have taught me to be more confident—I am incredibly modest, but I am learning to accept and embrace compliments as a result of living here.

The local roommates are becoming some of the best friends I have ever had in my life. I spoke with them on Facebook a few weeks before I arrived, and I could already tell that they were open-hearted and wanted to be our adopted family. Since I was already in Catania on the arrival date of the program, I went to the residence before the other students did, where I made friends very quickly with the Italians. I call them “I miei fratelli adottivi”—or my adopted brothers. As soon as I came, one of them cooked lunch for me. When I am not in class or exploring the city, I spend time with them. We frequently talk about the issues in the world today and our life philosophies in both English and Italian. I have helped them with their English, while they have helped me with my Italian. They have honestly taught me so much in just two weeks, and I really could not ask for better friends. My perspectives on many ideas about life have changed as a result of knowing them.

I honestly still cannot figure out why more tourists do not come to this island. Sicilians are so friendly, the cost of living is so low. I am learning more than I have in any of my other study abroad programs!