It is our last day in Palermo and we are seated in the cheery, maraschino red dining room of the Seralcadio Bed and Breakfast when an unexpected gift arrives. Noticing our instant and passionate addiction to her mother’s homemade orange and lemon preserves, and sensing our pain at the thought of leaving before breakfast the next morning to catch our train, Valeria, our hostess, our hero, fills a generous jar from her marmalade stash as a going away present.
Conjure the essence of countryside’s worth of Sicilian oranges condensed into a pint jar. Imagine the concentration of orange oil under your fingernails after peeling a thousand tangy spheres. Consider the chemical attraction between fruit blossoms and bees. Squeeze, zest, boil and reduce all of this in a pot that knows what it’s doing. Add just enough sugar to keep your tongue from begging for mercy from the tartness. Like a jar of lightning bugs on a summer night, our jar glows from within. Our jar could lead troubled ships to safe harbor on a dark night. Our jar is alive.
On the top deck of the ferry that will take us from Italy’s Eastern shore across the Mediterranean to Greece, we eat marmalade in sun with our paws like bear cubs.
If Valeria is our Sicilian mother, then Valeria’s mother is our Sicilian grandmother, and we owe both women our deepest Sicilian gratitude.
Dal profondo del nostro cuore e del nostro vaso, vi ringraziamo!
Chris and Alison Dennis