Monday, October 25, 2010

The lovely almond is found around all over the island of Sicily. Several years ago on my first trip to Sicily, when my uncle peeled the little, green, fuzzy pod and took out the small, white contents, I didn't know what it was. After chewing the soft nut ( it only gets hard when it is dried to be sold) with its fresh and light taste, an almost muted apple one -he told my sis and I that it was an almond! Strange how you never connect what a food item looks like at source or how it grows. On my last trip there I saw a walnut tree which again I was shocked to see as I had no clue how those little round wrinkly forehead-like nuts grew either.

In Sicily, almond trees blossom in February and are usually harvested in July. The island's almonds are used in confections, sweet liqueur and even almond-flavored wines - which are thought to be an aphrodisiac. At weddings when I was younger, there would be chocolate and sugar coated almonds in a bowl for guests to eat and with each thank you gift there were a few sugar coated almonds attached to it too.

These 'confetti' were for good luck and apparently with a little bit of research I found out that it stems from an ancient tradition in Sicily.

The throwing of the almonds at the bride (we didn't throw them at our brides- the priests didn't like that) symbolised a marriage by capture (I guess throwing the almonds were part of the tactics of capture?) Now we use paper confetti, which the priest also doesn't like, or some people are not using this tradition anymore.

On our last journey to the sunny island, the almond was present every day in our food and the trees were always visible along our travels. After Jake excitedly plucked one open that he found on the ground, I ate it as we had not seen any ripe ones since the harvest had just passed. I had some initial reservations about eating it as it was quite dark in color but I quickily ignored it and popped it in my mouth - to my surprise it was rotten and tasted vile! I tried to spit out as much as possible, gracefully of course, and my mouth proceeded to sting for about an hour afterwards (!) I was hoping I wasn't going to have some reaction to the rotten almond like one does to eating the wrong wild mushroom. I survived to tell the tale of course and ate lots of fresh almond cookies to compensate!

At the next Italian wedding I go to I hope they have some almond confetti.

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