The force of nature is upon you
when you are taken by the current of life, and come ashore far away from the place where you were born. Then you feel a strong longing for the sounds, the smells and tastes of your hometown. You see your mother taking the sweet pastry out of the oven, the crumbs that fall of, still warm melting in your mouth. This warm feeling is were your homeland is.
So say hello to Luigi: “Buongiorno Luigi”, very good!
He is Sicilian, and I meet him at the Sunday market in Liege, Belgium.
This Sunday morning he got up early, took a shower, stepped together with his wife on the Honda and drove 160 kilometers from Düsseldorf to Liege, No big deal, but why?
For what? Enjoying the scenery on his way? Yes, …but no, he wants to be in the kitchen of his mother again! Being pampered as only Italian mothers pamper their sons! Italian men are actually small boys as long as their mother is alive. Unfortunately Luigi’s mother died ten years ago, he misses her and his Sicily, at 3330 kilometers form Düsseldorf.
But why come to this gray industrial city in Belgium on a Sunday morning, here at the “Quai de Maestricht” in the hart of the city? Not stopping at Aachen or Maastricht? Because here he finds a reflection of Italian life, this is his “little Italy”! The market stalls along the Maas river are packed with cheap chinese shoes and lycra shirts, you can actually smell the sweat they generate by those who wear them. But once taken this hurdle you come at the centro sacrale, at the middle of the market.
Here la cuisina Italia, is ominent present. The sour smell of the Grana Pandano and Parmengiano Regano are taken by the breeze and tinkles in your nose. Turn your head and that smell is overtaken by the one of fish, sardines, small octopus, calamari and dried sheets of salted white fish.
Luigi explains that you first have to soak it in water for at least 24 hours! And don’t forget to change the water regularly otherwise you end up with a much to salty dish. Then once dried cover it in breadcrumbs and back in olive oil. His friend disagrees, for him it’s best with a tomato sauce!
The variety of pastas, plain flour cookies, cheeses, little jars filled with goodies, bottles with unfamiliar promising labels make me feel like having holidays. Finding my way through the crowd, I hear people speaking French, German, Dutch, Flamish and Italian. But Luigi hears much more, he hears his native tongue, the words and sounds from his island, Sicilia.The arguments, the little jokes. He hears his mother in the kitchen, the smell from her freshly backed cookies.
For a brief moment he is home again.