The Catania fish market gave me many new impressions which are can still recall after almost a year.
But the little street-food discoveries will remain for ever. It was not about the best pizza, arancini or other Italian specialities. These discoveries were about foods or dishes I had not known before, neither from Instagram or any other media.
They filled me with joy of an explorer of uncharted territories who can taste something new, even though it has been done as a craft by the people of Catania since a long time. Watching the people prepare the foods was different to watching somebody flipping burger patties. And the culinary sensations were so exciting to me.
Or simpler said: I experienced happiness.
Seltz Limone e Sale
As I didn’t have a coffee in the morning, I was attracted by a kiosk at the market with an espresso machine. Of course I could not resist to get a cup. And I needed a second one. I observed the owner how he was squeezing lemon into a glass of sparkling water with some white stuff on the bottom which looked like sugar. But he did not take it out of a typical sugar jar. Interesting.
But not for now, since I just had an espresso.
On my second round of the market, I could not resist. I had to try that drink. And watch the whole procedure of making this sort of lemonade. It takes it time.
First the glass is being filled several time with sparkling water coming out of a tap, pouring it into the sink and redoing the exercise a couple times. Just to get the glass in the right temperature? Maybe, even though it looked more like a ritual than something else.
Then came the white crystals, a couple spoons full. Most of it remained as a layer on the bottom of the plastic glass. I had to wait until the first sip to find out what it really was.
Then came freshly squeezed lemon juice, I’d say around 4 small lemon. They were already halved and the top removed, making them look bold or so – if you consider the peel to be hair. To squeeze the lemon the owner used a sort of pliers made specifically to get the juice out of them directly into my glass. The speed and strength used was remarkable. The result was a nice layer of foam like on a glass of beer in Bavaria.
Now it was my turn to taste this bubbly drink. I was excited to have the chance to drink something new and seemingly truly local. It was already getting warm, so a refreshing drink would be the right thing for now.
I did not get disappointed. The drink was so refreshing, the acidity and aroma of the lemon, the sparkling water … and the salt. Yes the white powder was salt, it took all possible sweetness out of the juice and added a different kind of dry freshness. Beautiful! I just had to pay attention not to drink the salt remainder on the bottom of the glass, that would have ruined it.
I came back later to drink a couple more. A fantastic simple drink this Seltz Limone e Sale.
After my second & third espresso / Seltz Limone e Sale I turned around and saw a new scene.
A couple men were standing at a simple camping style table, picking some stuff with a tooth pick. Again something new. What was that what they were picking and eating?
I made a few steps and had a closer look. Those were pieces of offal. And I love that stuff. Of course I had to order it. 3 Euros for a bowl. The vendor had a huge beaten up pot, probably 30 liters big sitting on a small gas cooker on the floor. The tilted lid on top made a vagabond out of it. With a large fork he pulled out the boiled rumen and other offal I did not recognize. All kinds of shapes. The rumen had a pattern of a fishing net, others were curled like pig tails: a colorful assortment of offal. Things I had not seen before and still cannot name. With a swing they landed on the table and cut into digestible pieces.
I ordered my part, with his knife he pushed it on the table towards me, no bowl needed. I got a tooth pick and a lemon to squeeze some juice on top of this beautiful arrangement. I picked up my first piece and had a wonderful mouthfeel and taste. It is hard to describe. It is kind of softly rubbery, a bit uncommon with an unpretentious umami aroma.
I will probably always prefer this over a steak as it tastes more interesting to me. Yes a great steak offers a lot as well, this is why it is so popular in general. But after having eaten steaks in the US & South Africa, those in Germany do not excite me anymore. Tripe do.
Which wine does fit to those tripe which do not come with thick sauce but just plain? I don’t know. Maybe a Pinot gris?
Even without, it was a great meal and experience.
A thick layer of smoke coming from a barbecue attracted me. It did not seem that something was really burning. The owner pulled off a cover of this simple rectangular and flat metal construction, only his face remained visible when all the smoke burst out. But what was on that charcoal fueled “factory”? Despite being only a curious tourist, the owner gave me a smile and made me feel good coming a bit closer taking a few pictures. What I saw were trays filled with either grilled peppers or artichokes, nicely put next to each other.
The artichokes were sitting on their stems, which became black after the procedure, the pointed “leaves” faced the sky like green flames trying to go as high up as possible. The peppers had lost their shaped like balloons without air, their skins having turned black.
They were not made to be eaten on the spot as there were no plates and cutlery laying around for customers. So I assume the gentleman helped households to overcome the tedious procedure to grill your own vegetables for lunch or dinner. As I never asked what kind of dishes are made with these beautiful products, I remain ignorant.
Making a living
How do those guys make a living? How many bowls of tripe does one need to produce and sell to make a decent living? Staying in the smoke the whole day, is this something one can do a whole life and finance retirement? No idea, I hope they all have a good life as much as they brought it to me with their wonderful products.