My Life as a Sicilian – a three-year dieting journey in the land of antipasti
It began simple enough. Our family relocated to Sicily, Italy by way of California, complements of the United States navy. I had just lost the forty-five pounds of post-baby weight and was down to fourteen percent body fat. I was happy, content and thin. Then the news that we would be moving abroad came into view and I instantly became frantic. I had heard the rumors of Sicilians walking the streets, eating pastries, enjoying large ten-course meals at lunchtime, and lots of alcohol consumption. I had seen the pictures of brooding Sicilian mothers forcing their large families to “mangia! Mangia!” and not to leave the table until every morsel vanished. I knew of several Italian families living here in the United States that only enjoyed their family reunions because of the pasta-gorging and pizza-baking. These people were serious about their food! I wanted no part of it. I decidedly refused to be a part of the Sicilian culture and especially reminded myself that of course there was a commissary on the navy base and certainly I could continue my current eating lifestyle. Luckily, this was not the case and thankfully so when we landed on Italian soil in march 1997.
The first sampling of fine Sicilian cuisine was at a ristorante in a little village close to the navy base. They served all specialties of pasta, and their main following was for the wood oven-baked pizza that was routinely made with buffalo cheese. It was incredibly delicious, light and filling. I was pleased and so were my family. We decided that this little restaurant would become a regular for our family.
As the months went on, our tastes became even more refined as we traveled throughout all of Italy, attuned to the differences in the sauces of Florence versus Rome, and got to know whose pasta was the most al dente. During the first year of life in Sicily, I became increasingly aware of how much better I felt, how much clearer my skin was, and how I had not gained any of my weight back! I was even eating more bread, more pasta and staying at exactly the same body fat as I did before moving to Sicily. What remained more of a mystery were the Sicilians themselves. The girls and women there were not overweight and in fact were slim and beautiful. They did not beat their bodies with exercise, did not starve themselves, and did not take supplements. They did eat more slowly, drank gallons of water and ate only the freshest food possible, all with a slight coating of olive oil. They did not run five miles a day, nor did they have to have gastric bypass surgery.
After the first year of eating well and being amazed at the lack of overweight people that surrounded me, I investigated further by becoming one of the Sicilians by learning their language and immersing myself in their culture and lifestyle. I would find out why they were thin and Americans were, well, not so thin. Within the second year of eating delicious pasta, staying thin still and conversing fluently in Italian with my new friends, I discovered that the Sicilians had many, many things going for them. They had their families, they valued their relatives, they did not snack on empty foods, and they drank lots and lots of bottled water. They did not appear to have the stressors that we Americans had. They ate fresh, unprocessed foods. They shopped frequently for fresh ingredients. They baked their own bread. They grew their own vegetables and fruit, even if their gardens were scanty in size. They talked with their friends and neighbors often, and were seemingly always with their families, including the extended family. They rarely ate out in restaurants. They ate very, very little refined sugar. They drank very little milk. As well, they drank very little alcohol.
Wrapping up our third year in Sicily, I was still at the same body fat, still wore the same size clothes and still happily ate an entire Mediterranean diet. I knew now that the secret to staying thin was something that the Sicilians knew better than any of we Americans could ever know. I miss my Sicilian friends and miss the smell of fresh bread being baked at our local panificcio. I miss the outdoor markets in each of the tiny cittas and I long for the pizza margherita that we used to buy down the street from our home from the tiny ristorante known as Vittorio’s. More than anything, I miss the simple pleasures of good, fresh food eaten slowly on a summer’s day while watching the lava flow down mount Aetna, hearing the sounds of young boys playing soccer outside in the street and smelling the orange blossoms from the blood orange groves that surround us in the countryside.
No related posts.