As you can imagine, helping to organize a symposium for 30 people in another country, especially a small Mediterranean island oﬀ the coast of Sicily, requires a good deal of coordination. Planning, planning, and more planning (and a bit of patience) is key to success. And as much as you do plan there is always much to be done in the moment to ensure everything comes together.
This symposium was an opportunity for Oldways, the Region of Sicily, and our longtime friend and colleague, Fausto Luchetti, to introduce Pantelleria and its ‘secrets’ to the 30 journalists, scientists, and food retailers/importers who joined us. Pantelleria is home to a mere 8,000 inhabitants, one of whom is the fashion designer Armani, so there is one secret revealed!
While on this beautiful island our group stayed at the Mursia Hotel, explored several wineries (Donnafugata, Abraxas, and Basile) where we learned about the grapes of the region, tasted the varieties, and saw how they are cultivated. We sampled (and sampled and sampled) the foods that Pantescans have enjoyed for hundreds of years; we were treated to spectacular lunches and dinners and cooking demonstrations and were introduced to local chefs. We learned about (and toured) dammusi, the traditional style of homes built into the rural landscape and scattered across the countryside, and we met the local architect responsible for the rebirth of the dammusi, and the stunning new Cathedral in the center of town. The pride Pantescans have for the island of Pantelleria, and their enthusiasm to share their traditions, is contagious. These are a few of the secrets I discovered, along with my newfound aﬃnity for afternoon naps. (Could be the wine tastings talking.)
There is one moment I will remember most. We arrived in the beautiful town of Scauri to visit one of the caper ﬁelds of Bonomo & Giglio, to learn how this tiny fruit has been a core part of this island’s agricultural base and cuisine for many, many years. We were to follow the caper from ﬁeld to table, starting with the cultivation process, to cleaning and sorting, to packaging and then, of course, a lunch of capers galore at La Nicchia. As our group gathered in the caper ﬁeld for a welcome under a clear blue sky, our Pantescan host ﬁrst acknowledged the date, September 11th, and then invited us to take a moment of silence in remembrance. This simple gesture touched me – and all who were present, standing together among the capers. While there are so many memories I will take away from this experience, that one moment, like the beautiful island of Pantelleria, is unforgettable.