Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...



One of the things that I love about Italy is the very short route that products take to travel from the source to the table. Many times it's as easy as reaching up to tree in your backyard to pick a ripe summer peach. Maybe you have a couple of eggplants growing in your garden or you just might know of a secret cove where mussels grow wild and can be scavenged at will.

In Italy, if you don't have the fortune of being so close to your produce, you will surely be able to profit from the tree of a neighbor or the knowledge of a retired fisherman.

This is my friend Mario's uncle. He's retired, but still enjoys fishing for sea urchins and is always ready with a fresh supply of slowly moving, living ricci (sea urchins). As you can see in the water behind him, there are little black spots on the rocks. These are ricci as well, but one must be able to distinguish male (black) from female (violet-red), as the "meat" of the urchin is in the eggs.

There was a yacht that came in and wanted these spiny little creatures for spaghetti and Lo Zio brought them, and opened them right up by the sea. Can you see the orange strips? Those are the eggs, and that's what you eat. If my sister is reading this, I'll bet she's fighting back a hearty gag reflex. You know what else Misty (my sister)? They're best eaten raw, accompanied by a glass of white wine and an old clam shell to scoop it all out. Even though she is likely in the middle of a violent stomach spasm, I might be able to convince the rest of you that it is delicious. Trust me.

And for those of you who have a less adventurous palate, here's the old Signora who comes by daily to sell her freshly picked fruit. Can't you just imagine a beautiful slice of prosciutto on top of those figs in her basket? YUM.

And you wondered why I came to Italy!


Blogger cammar said...

This post brings me back to the first time that I went to catch ricci in Procida. I was just a kid and nobody told me that the black ones were male and with no eggs. I caught two full plastic bags of them for nothing and I ended up with a lot of broken spines in my fingertips...
Anyway, ricci ARE delicious, just like figs and prosciutto. Pretty much every food is delicious in Italy. But unfortunately this will end. In a generation or two McDonald's kind of junk food will replace everything. This is already happening in big cities. The Americanization of the western world is unstoppable... and that sucks!

7/20/2006 12:17 PM

Anonymous Pat said...

Gue' Tra'ci,

prusutte cu e ficche e' o' finne 'e munne veramente.

7/20/2006 11:15 PM

Blogger Sicilian said...

I am so glad you are back up and posting. The thought of ricci gags me too, but my Sicilian father eats anything that doesn't eat you first. . . and nothing is wasted. . .probably why they use the clam shells to dig them out. . .

7/21/2006 1:03 AM

Blogger Dianne said...

Wonderfull! That is exactly why I spend so much of my time in continental Europe ... just coming back to the UK to earn the money for the next trip!


7/21/2006 4:31 AM

Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

You make ricci sound incredible. I might have to trip them on my next trip.

7/21/2006 10:04 AM

Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Tracie, Glad to hear from you! How's the good life treating you? Sea Urchins eggs are yummy! I tried them first in sushi and now we hunt them on the rocks in the Aegean (on vacations). Lotsa work but they're much better absolutely minute-old fresh.
P.S. to Pat: Ma cosa dici e in che dialetto? ;)

7/21/2006 10:43 AM

Anonymous franca said...

Hello Tracie. Hey, you didn't reply to the email I sent you! That's ok, you're a very busy woman living my kind of life. I don't blame you :)...figs and prosciutto, yummy!

And I think Pat is trying to say: Ciao Tracie, prosciutto with figs and sea urchins are really good. Not sure about which dialetto, but it sounds a little Napoletano/Siciliano?? Hey, at least I tried :).

7/21/2006 11:13 AM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

pat said "prosciutto e fichi sono il fine del mondo." that means prosc. and figs are the end of the world--that is, delicious :)

franca--i did email you!

7/21/2006 11:35 AM

Blogger kigogal said...

Oh for Pete's sake!!!


I've had Urchin in Sushi, but never with pasta. Definitely going to try.

And my dinner the other night was prosciutto, figs, apples, and some really yummy farmer cheese. (And of course wine.) I think I heard angels singing... :-)

7/21/2006 12:41 PM

Blogger Annika said...

I wonder if I can eat sea urchins? Great to finally see some pics on your blog though, will we get more posts in the future as well?

7/21/2006 2:32 PM

Anonymous Pat said...


l'aggio ritte int'o' nnapulitane.

But let's remember. it's a language not a dialect.

Franca and Tracie,
your Neapolitan is very impressive, my compliments.

7/21/2006 6:30 PM

Anonymous franca said...

Hey Tracie...I emailed you back :).

Pat...where do you live? I understood most of what you said, but I was saying it in my head instead of out loud (which makes a big difference in grasping the meaning). haha!

7/22/2006 6:54 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Welcome back. Roll those "r"s Tracie b.!

7/23/2006 12:49 PM

Anonymous Dear "Old" Dad said...

Tracie, as I grow closer to the age of the Chronologically Gifted woman in the post, "old" just doesn't seem to fit or to be fair even if it is accurate. The "old" Signora in your picture is a beautiful person of a mature
age. How's that for being politically correct. Beautiful pictures of beautiful people. Love ya, and I agree with all about how much we miss your post.

7/24/2006 7:31 AM

Blogger Andrea said...

im jealous......my husband is from Bari and he was there for 5 weeks and gained 28 lbs in those 5 weeks......all he did was eat fresh food the entire time

I was jealous..course, not of the weight gain just the option for fresh food all the time

7/24/2006 1:55 PM

Anonymous Pat said...

Franca, I live in New Jersey.

7/24/2006 4:20 PM

Blogger traveller one said...

Okay... you've convinced me-- I'm coming over as soon as I can!

7/24/2006 5:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, it's 'LO ZIO'not il zio. Lo before impure S or Z, remember?

7/25/2006 9:07 AM

Blogger Turtle Guy said...

Living in a place where many foods are close at hand, yet others are shipped from far and wide, I can appreciate your observation! I have to wonder when I step up to a "BC FRUIT AND TABER CORN" stand why SOME of the fruit actually comes from California??

The rather short growing season here makes the food from the garden that much more appreciated!

7/25/2006 2:37 PM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

ok ok! i forgot...HHHHAAAAAAHHH

7/26/2006 4:07 AM

Blogger Sangindiva said...

I'm soooooo jealous of you!!
But I love that you are living life the way you like :)

Live it like it's golden girl- because it is!

7/31/2006 1:55 PM

Blogger Guisun said...

you take the most amazing photos ever. maybe you should have a separate blog for your photography.

7/31/2006 3:02 PM

Blogger Larry Aiello said...

I love that photo!

Look at the man's expression on his face, and look at his hands. The Italian people are very colorful.

And the ricci are fabulous too. It reminds me of being a kid again when I would visit Sicily. You would see them all over the place.

And yes, everything in Italy is fresh. They pretty much catch the fish, bake the bread, or whatever else they need for the day, THAT VERY SAME DAY.

Nice blog.

Larry Aiello

9/09/2006 10:20 PM


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