Food in the Sicilian market is very different from the food at the HyVee in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Before I came to Italy I had a very different outlook on “fresh food”. I thought that fresh foods were the bright fruits and vegetables that were very attractive to look at. I definitely felt comfortable eating the fruits from HyVee without any hesitations at all. My first trip to the Ortigia market was another story.
The local market here is quite different from the clean and shiny selection at home. It almost seems that the more dirt here means the fresher it is. I remember walking up to a local stand that had oranges. The oranges were covered in brown dirt and I thought to myself that there was no way I would come close to purchasing those. As I continued to walk around to other stands I noticed just as much dirt on not just the oranges but the other fruit as well! Giving in, I purchased the oranges covered in dirt and come to find out…. I LOVE THEM.
Another weird thing they do here is they have fish on display, all have their heads still attached. Most of the time in the states they have the fish all ready for you to cook when you purchase it. In Italy, they leave the heads on and don’t cut them off until you are ready to purchase. I have been told that you can tell the freshness of the fish by looking into their eyes. If the eyes are cloudy and glazed over they are old and if they are clear then they are fresher. The shrimp selection here is also interesting. You can either buy shrimp that has the shell or does not have the shell. Be careful though, because if you buy the shrimps without the shell you still have to devein them, which means taking the poop line out of theira positive note, the shrimp in Ortigia is better than any kind of shrimp I have tasted back home.
The atmosphere is completely different here. Obviously, when you walk down the aisle in a typical grocery store in America you don’t normally have older men yelling at you in Italian to buy theirOrtigia, the second you come within a short distance of the outdoor market there are people yelling things. My personal favorite saying is, “PREGO, PREGO”. The word “prego” has so many meanings that I cannot distinguish what this version means, but I have come to the conclusion that it has something to do with us buying from their particular stand.
Even though I miss the spicy buffalo sauce and queso cheese at home, I have come to be accustomed to these fresh foods. These foods have no preservatives and are always easy and cheap to buy! They make my stomach and bank account very happy.