A HOUSE IN SI­CILY

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Women - BY TRU­MAN CAPOTE

Fon­tana Vec­chia, old foun­tain. So the house is called. Pace, peace: this word is carved into the stone doorstep. There is no foun­tain; there has been, I think, some­thing rather like peace. It is a rose-coloured house dom­i­nat­ing a val­ley of al­mond and olive trees that sinks into the sea. Across the wa­ter there is a view on clear days of Italy’s tip end, the penin­sula of Cal­abria. Back of us, a stony, wa­ver­ing path, trav­elled mostly by farm­ing peas­ants…

Be­fore dawn, when droop­ing stars drift at the bed­room win­dow fat as owls, a racket be­gins along the steep, at mo­ments per­ilous path that de­scends from the moun­tains. It is the farm fam­i­lies on their way to the mar­ket-place in Taormina. Loose rocks scat­ter un­der the stum­bling hoofs of over­loaded don­keys; there are swells of laugh­ter, a sway of lanterns: it is as though the lanterns were sig­nalling to the far-be­low night fish­er­men, who just then are haul­ing in their nets. Later, in the mar­ket, the farm­ers and the fish­er­men meet… If you ques­tion the fresh­ness of a fish, the ripeness of a fig, they are great show­men. Si, buono: your head is pushed down to smell the fish; you are told, with an ec­static and threat­en­ing roll of eyes, how de­li­cious it is. I am al­ways in­tim­i­dated; not so the vil­lagers, who poke stonily among the tiny jewel toma­toes and never hes­i­tate to sniff a fish or bruise a melon. Shop­ping, and the ar­rang­ing of meals, is uni­ver­sally a prob­lem, I know; but af­ter a few months in Si­cily even the most skilled house­holder might con­sider the noose – no, I ex­ag­ger­ate: the fruit, at least when first it comes into sea­son, is more than ex­cel­lent; the fish is al­ways good, the pasta, too. I’m told you can find ed­i­ble meat; I’ve never been so for­tu­nate. Also, there is not much choice of veg­eta­bles; in win­ter, eggs are rare. But of course the real trou­ble is we can’t cook; nei­ther, I’m afraid, can our cook. She is a spir­ited girl, very charm­ing, a lit­tle su­per­sti­tious: our gas bill, for in­stance, is some­times as­tro­nom­i­cal, as she is fond of melt­ing im­mense pots of lead on the stove, then twist­ing the lead into car­ven im­ages. As long as she keeps to sim­ple Si­cil­ian dishes, re­ally sim­ple and re­ally Si­cil­ian, they are, well, some­thing to eat.

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