Autumn is officially here and the season begins for the Sagre. As my friend Karen LaRosa of LaRosa Works just mentioned in her photo-journal, “A Sagra is a festival that celebrates local food products and traditions. In Sicily they are ubiquitous, especially in the fall, when it is harvest time.” Just reading about Sicily and the Sagra got me to thinking…why not throw one?
On October 19th at 7pm at the Music Room in NYC, I’ll be performing with my trio, Terra Sangue Mare. It will be our only open-to-the-public Manhattan performance until 2016. The night will be extra special not only because we’ll be making music in NYC’s most eclectic and intimate performance space, but because we are hosting our own “sagra” for our audience and we are preparing the food!*
The community of people who enjoy Sicilian Folk & Roots music has been growing and we see many of these people at show after show. As we have gotten to know each other, our shows have become more participatory with people feeling inclined to sing along and getting up to dance when the rhythm moves them. It’s starting to feel as if we are playing in the piazza or even for a celebration in masseria ( at home, on the farm). In short: it feels more and more like a party. Of course, no party is complete without food, so now we are selecting which dishes we can serve which will best represent the bounty of Sicily as well as typical Sicilian ingredients.
The first item on the menu is Pasta alla Carrettiera. Last November, while visiting Selinunte , Sicily, I was intrigued by the use of toasted ground almonds as a condiment for pasta. A friend from Castelvetrano then told me about the dish, Pasta alla Carrettiera : a simple preparation of a long pasta with one fluted edge which uses minimal ingredients: garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil, maybe some tomatoes and definitely grated pecorino cheese. Sometimes, toasted ground almonds or or sometimes toasted breadcrumbs are added. The carters or the carrettieri, the men who hauled goods across Sicily in horse or mule drawn wagons, needed sustenance without spending a lot of time and money on the preparation. Besides the obvious reasons of taste and convenience, why am I drawn to this pasta dish? ( I know…taste and convenience should be reason enough…) Because there is a tradition of songs of the carrettieri and some of them are in our repertoire!
At home, I love to cook for my family and friends and to welcome guests with food is a tradition having roots as far back as we could possibly trace our family history. These days, I’m always cooking for musicians - it’s a way to show appreciation for their sharing their gift of music. As our audiences have grown to be like dear friends, we are looking forward with joy to preparing a meal for them and enjoying it together.
Are you coming? Good! We’ll set another plate…
*it helps that the wonderful musicians I work with are alway up for anything…just when I was thinking of this, they were, too, so we’ll all be in the kitchen together. It’ll be just like our jam sessions…only BIGGER…
We’ll also be performing at the Whitney1253 on October 17th and we’ll be preparing Pasta alla Carrettiera too!