Posts Tagged ‘malocchio’

Gemma the baby goat ready for breakfast

Experiencing Joy, Unapologetically and Without Fear

Do you allow yourself to feel joy in the moment or do you hold back, worrying that the other shoe will drop at any moment, that for every good thing that happens, there must a corresponding bad one?

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Green / verde

The Evil of Envy & the Importance of Staying in Your Own Lane

Envy can prevent us from working on ourselves and our own goals, which is why it’s so important for us to stay in our own lanes and not worry so much about what other people are doing and achieving. We each have our own unique paths, and that’s exactly as it should be.

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Sunday Scribbligs: Ode to the Peperoncino

Prompt #63: Spicy

Spicy means one thing here in the toe of Italy’s boot, and that’s the beloved peperoncino, literally “little pepper” in Italian. Yes, Calabrian peppers aka Calabrian chiles.

What is a Calabrian pepper?

It’s the chile pepper, the heat, the heart of Calabrian cuisine, and a group of them are thrown on the table with just about every meal.

To say that dedication to the peperoncino borders on obsession is not an exaggeration; I know men who carry peperoncini in their pockets to restaurants in case the provided Calabria peppers aren’t appropriately piccanti.

No joke amici. Don’t mess with the pep’.

Here in my house, we have a steady supply of fresh peperoncini through the summer from our own plants, but for when they’re out of season, it’s also popular to keep them under oil:


Although we all love hot peppers down here, there’s one particular village in Calabria closely associated with the pods that pack a punch: Diamante, in the province of Cosenza, home of the annual Festival del Peperoncino held by the Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino.

I’ve never been (fellow blogger Judy has and there’s another great report here), but apparently everyone in Diamante gets involved with peperoncino-inspired jewelry being a big seller (good to keep away the malocchio you know).

Admission is free, and you can visit over 100 stands set up along the gorgeous lungomare along the Tyrrhennian Sea. Foods range from a cornetto al peperoncino (pastry filled with a peppery cream) to tartufo piccante (ice cream with bits of peperoncini), and there’s even a pepper eating contest, “Campionato italiano mangiatori di peperoncini,” for the competitive types.

Back here at the home office, you’ll see peperoncino in many of my What’s Cooking Wednesday recipes, but even if you don’t like spicy food, here’s a tip: just a little bit of the stuff brings out the flavor of just about anything without adding heat.

Don’t be afraid!

Also, if your mouth is burning from too much hotness, eat a piece of bread or something dairy-like instead of reaching for water. The heat in hot peppers is really an oil; water moves around the burning sensation but it doesn’t counteract it.

If you’ll be dealing with a large number of peppers, use disposable gloves. The oils of the peppers are very good at working their way into your pores and can be quite difficult to just wash away–bleach and water, salted water, or toothpaste, believe it or not, are your best bets.

Please be especially careful if you wear contact lenses.

Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Any more questions? Fire away! Ha!

a different kind of malocchio

I’ve written about the curse of malocchio, but yesterday at 4 a.m., I experienced a much different kind of “bad eye.” I woke up with a literal one that was tearing, burning, itching, and just being a big ole pain.

Needless to say, I couldn’t fall back asleep–did you notice that I posted at 5:30 a.m. yesterday? Yeah, you probably won’t be seeing that again unless the eye strikes back.

So after posting, I woke up P for work. He asked if I wanted to go down the mountain to the doctor. Nah, I said, we’ll see how it progresses.

I don’t like the doctor, but I really hate going here, where it can take hours of sitting among a bunch of sickies before I’m seen only to get news that I could’ve gotten at the pharmacy, where the pharmacist diagnoses you and sells you whatever he thinks you need. No thanks.

A few minutes after P left for work, he returned and told me that he had two different volunteers in the piazza that would take me to the doctor if I wanted. Again, no. Let’s just wait and see, I said.

So once I was sure the pharmacist had arrived in the village, I ventured out for some medical advice; he usually rolls in around 9:30, but to be safe I waited until 10. And wouldn’t you know? A line of people.

I, of course, kept my sunglasses on, so I got even more stares than I normally would, as oddly enough, young people don’t often hang out in the pharmacy in a village where the average age is somewhere around 65. After a few minutes and a gasp from the pharmacist at how bad my eye looked, I got some drops (the famous collirio for fellow expats) and was on my way.

And then more fun began.

First I ran into P’s sister-in-law who diagnosed me as having pink eye, which I had thought was a possibility as well, but she seemed particularly concerned because “My how your face is swollen! You look terrible!”

Then the clerk in the tobacco shop (needed to get tissues) seconded that emotion, and told me (in a speech that lasted no less than 15 minutes) that her two daughters had just gotten over pink eye.

Alrighty then. Moving on the grocery store, which is about a ten second walk down the street.

On the way, I was stopped by three different elderly women asking about my eye. I was wearing sunglasses, by the way, so they hadn’t actually seen a problem, but the word had clearly gotten out.

And then inside the grocery store, the clerk also diagnosed me with pink eye, although another customer thought I had just gotten something in it, like a mosquito, he said. I hadn’t thought of the mosquito angle, so I thanked him for his ingenuity.

The morning was rounded out by a phone call from P’s mom (who doesn’t live in the village, but rather down the mountain) asking me if I wanted to go to the doctor. Again, I resisted the invitation, and I didn’t even think it was strange that she knew I had an eye issue.

Instead, I squeezed some drops into my eye, causing ridiculous burning for a few seconds and finally some relief, and then called the school to tell them I wouldn’t be teaching today. They, incidentally, hadn’t heard of the Great Eye Debacle yet, so it was good I called.

More drops and many cold compresses later, the eye was mostly back to normal by yesterday evening–much to the relief of the village, which sent some representative questioners this morning when I took Luna for a walk.

As for the eye, I’m not sure if it was a quickly traveling virus or even, say, a mosquito, but it seems to have passed, and I am left with only photographic reminders of all the annoyance. Because of the horrible pain, I was up for the sunrise yesterday, and that didn’t turn out to be a bad consolation prize.*

Unfortunately the weather turned cloudy and rainy soon thereafter, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the day started.

This from the balcony:

And this from my kitchen window as the sun traveled through the sky:

*Excuse the crookedness factor please. I was only working with one good eye, you know, and even that wasn’t so good since I didn’t have my contacts in. I’m virtually blind with uncorrected vision.


[tags]eye problems, sunrises, calabria, life in calabria[/tags]

sunday scribblings: superstitions

Prompt #49: Superstitions

Superstitions–a topic close to my heart having grown up with an Italian-American grandmother and now living in southern Italy, where Roman Catholicism and mysticism live in surprising perfect harmony.

That phenomenon is worth a whole post, and indeed books have been written on the subject. Perhaps someday I’ll wax theoretical, but for today, let’s stick in the here and now, the daily implications of superstition in my life.

I’ve already written about my experiences with malocchio, The Evil Eye, perhaps the greatest superstition of all, especially since it crosses many cultures and religions. Some of my other favorite superstitions are things you should avoid doing lest you invite bad luck: placing a loaf of bread upside down, spilling wine, olive oil, or salt, dropping scissors.

Another of my favorites is that a pregnant woman’s cravings should always be satisfied or else the baby will be born with a birthmark in the form of the desired food or the child will be generally disfigured. You scoff?

I inherited a birthmark that my father has because my pregnant grandmother expressed her craving for chicken while scratching her legs. Yes, we both have chicken-shaped birthmarks on our calves (although I prefer to think it looks more like a heart). Someday I may show you, but sorry, today’s not the day.

All of my pregnant readers are more than welcome to quote me on this topic, by the way.

But my freakiest experience with southern Italian superstition happened about a year ago when P’s mom rushed into the house with tears in her eyes, begging me to go and retrieve some of her jewelry she had given me a few months before.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I had a dream.” I’m pretty sure she thought that would be enough information, but, you know, I’m American, so I ask questions.

“About the jewelry?” I was still not making a move for the steps to get the jewelry, so she gently guided me with her hands.

“No, about you and my son, and….” She sat down, started rocking back and forth, made repeated, furious signs of the cross, and began mumbling what I assume were prayers.

“What happened in the dream?” I stepped down two steps and stopped.

“I didn’t sleep all night,” she said, and continued saying prayers and crying. I didn’t see the conversation going any further, so I didn’t push it. I assumed that P and I had been dead in the dream–because if we had just broken up in the dream, that wouldn’t have been so upsetting? Right? Hard to tell. I went to get the jewelry.

“This is everything?” she asked as I handed her a few little boxes that contained earrings and a necklace I rather liked–it had a tiny ladybug charm, which, ironically, I always thought meant good luck.

“Yes, that’s everything. Do you want something to…”

“OK, I have to go,” she said abruptly and left, still saying prayers and still crying, but most importantly clutching the jewelry.

So I was left in the wake of this early morning encounter to consider not only my own and P’s mortality, but also what the jewelry had to do with any of it. Through various research including thinking back to my own grandmother but *not* including asking P’s mom, because this is a subject not to be discussed, I think maybe I’ve figured it out.

Among southern Italians, it’s a common practice that when one prays to a particular saint or the Virgin Mary for a request, one often promises something in return–many times it is a piece of jewelry to be pinned to the clothes of a statue.

I’m wondering if perhaps P’s mom had promised my pieces of jewelry somewhere along the way for some request, and then saw something bad happening in her dream because she gave them to me instead. Or perhaps she had simply promised away that jewelry in lieu of P and I staying alive and/or together. Or maybe she had seen something in the dream about the jewelry somehow causing trouble.

Like I said, I haven’t asked, because, truth be told, I don’t actually want to know the whole story. I’m definitely superstitious, and I believe in messages coming through dreams, so this was one time I was more than happy to live in blissful ignorance.

In fact, I didn’t even tell my own mom about this until I figured P and I were in the clear. Like birthmarks, superstitions seem to run in the family.

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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