Catania: a foodie’s paradise

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Catania, Sicilia, pleased to meetcha.

Wow, even that stingray is looking tasty.

It’s hard not to want to eat everything at the market in Catania, an ancient yet metropolitan city on Sicily’s verdant east coast.

Okay, maybe not everything.  But the temptation is still pretty strong.

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This is the ultimate Italian culinary experience, raw and undiluted. The fruit glistens, blood oranges and regular Valencia oranges are sliced and placed strategically to tempt the buyer.  Nice try, scurvy, there’s no purchase here for you in Sicily.  This is a vitamin C paradise in every color of the rainbow.  Don’t even get me started on the artichokes, those strange, scaly green carciofi, lined up like a primordial forest.  I want to take them all and stuff them with breadcrumbs and garlic.  Cheeses hang from little multicolored awnings: caccio cavallo, gorgonzola.  Even the “King of Cheeses”, Parmigiano-Reggiano, is part of the cast.

The fish market is another experience altogether, with crawling prawns, swordfish heads and little skydiving mackerels.  There is a crush of people here, vendors hocking their products.  One man, standing next to a pile of scallops, tries to get his son to take me around the city on his vespa.  I politely decline.  Backing away from the fish market, I spot the nut vendor.

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Avete nocciole?” I stammer, my Italian hesitant and fragmented. Do you have any hazelnuts?  I wonder briefly how to say “I think I’m addicted to them” in Italian.  A man hands me some warm hazelnuts fresh from the oven, then a small bag of pistachios, on the house.  Prize in hand, I thank him profusely and return to wandering.  It’s controlled madness, and people here do this every day. 

Eat your heart out, Farmer’s Market.

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