Who could resist a blog called “Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish”? Meet Lucia, from Louisiana, USA and read about multi-cultural family life in Sicily.
Lucia, I’m fascinated by the title of your blog. How did you think of it?
I wish I could take full credit it for the title but I can’t. It was inspired by a book with a similar name. As soon as I saw the book’s title, I thought to myself,
“That sounds just like our family except I crave crawfish way more than grits”. (By the way it is a great book for multi-cultural families).
When I first started the blog, I wanted to honour our family’s unique blend of cultures. Food seemed like a good way to do that. Crawfish for the Cajun roots. My family is one of the original Acadian families to settle in Louisiana. Bagels because we are Jewish and matzo ball soup or gefilte fish just didn’t sound right. And Dim Sum because our daughter is from Taiwan. Each of these foods also have a very social side to them that we love: crawfish boils, Sunday morning brunch, and the lively experiences at dim sum restaurants…they connect us culturally and socially to our combined heritages. Mix that all together and you get our little American family that has spent more time living overseas than living in the States since becoming a family of four! It may sound like an odd mix of things, but it is who we are and we love it.
Can you tell us how a “Jewish, Cajun, Taiwanese, American family” came to be living in Sicily?
Thanks to the United States Navy we have had the chance to live in Bremerton, Washington; Okinawa, Japan; Jacksonville, Florida; and Sicily, Italy. I wish I had a more romantic answer to give you, but actually for a Cajun girl who grew up in rural South Louisiana, it is a much more exciting life than I ever imagined and I love the fact that my children are already on their second set of passports. My husband and I both had the travel bug long before we met. Prior to getting married, we individually had several experiences living overseas (Spain, Bulgaria, Japan, Oxford) so we feel very lucky to now have this life together.
Did it take you long to settle? What about the children?
Since we live a fairly nomadic lifestyle, moving every three years has become a part of our family’s rhythm. The first year is spent adjusting and riding the roller coaster of the highs that come with exploring a new place and the lows of homesickness and culture shock. We are now preparing to enter our second year, which is always my favorite year in our three-year cycles. It is the year when we usually feel the most connected and involved. The third year is one of transition...trying to cram in all of the trips and cultural experiences we meant to spread out over three years while preparing to move to a new part of the world. In many ways our children (ages 7 and 4) are truly global citizens. I am always amazed by how quickly they adapt and engage. And moving to Sicily has been an especially smooth transition with the kids. From our kids’ perspective what’s not to love about a country that eats granita for breakfast, is obsessed with soccer, and adores children?
Yes, it’s a wonderful place for children. Can you tell us about where you live?
We live in the plains of Catania. It is a relatively flat, agricultural area filled with orange groves, artichoke fields, and sheep. We have stunning views of Mt. Etna and are within an easy drive of some of Sicily’s most impressive offerings in the form of Greek ruins, beautiful beaches, quaint Sicilian towns, and the larger cities of Catania, Taormina, and Siracusa.
What do you love about where you live and is there anything that drives you crazy?
I love the vibrant people, the refreshing almond granita, the local markets, the wildflowers in April, the layers of culture and history slathered onto this island and the ruins and buildings that tell those stories. I especially love wandering here…meandering down little streets, winding up curvy mountain roads with stunning views, stumbling upon roadside shrines and little trucks selling seasonal veggies and fruits, finding beautiful pieces of tile washed up on the beaches…it is one unexpected sensory experience after another and I love that.
One of the things that really drives me crazy is the lack of toilet seats. Prior to our arrival, we were warned about the driving and I have to admit it has taken some adjustment but it doesn’t bother me as much as it did when we first moved here. The garbage issues also bug me. But the toilet seats are truly an annoying mystery. Does anyone know why there aren’t toilet seats in Sicily? Are they expensive here? Are they a popular item for theft? The hinges are there, but the seats aren’t. I don’t understand it. All right, sorry to get off on that tangent…it’s one of the funny aspects of living and traveling in different countries, isn’t it? The small things that one assumes will be universal but they aren’t and they end up surprising you and gnawing at you. I was prepared for toilet issues while living in Asia (and since I seem to be sharing all sorts of personal info here, I ‘ll just add that I actually prefer the Asian squat style toilet…much easier and keeps your legs toned J), but no one said anything about Sicily. So now I am saying it: there aren’t many toilet seats here!
Oh, I am totally with you. I agree about the sensory experiences but the lack of toilet seats drives me crazy too. They didn’t even have them in the hospital here! Do you speak Italian?
Ugh…lets just say that my four year old is more fluent than I am! I am trying, but it’s hard work for me, especially when Japanese keeps coming out of my mouth instead of Italian.
Have any of your tastes - culinary or cultural - changed since you came to live in Italy?
I have a new obsession with fennel since moving to Sicily. I can’t seem to get enough of it. During the orange season I became addicted to fennel and orange salad. The crazy thing is that I had a huge patch of fennel growing in our garden in Florida, but we never ate it. We used it as a host plant for butterflies. I loved the butterflies, but if I had known how good fennel is there’s no way we would have had any fennel left for the butterflies! I also have a new appreciation for how meals should be eaten. I love the long, leisurely meals that unfold here over several hours of good wine, excessive amounts of food, and lively company. I am quickly learning that life in Italy is all about savouring…savouring the tastes, the experiences, the relationships. It’s a very good lesson in slowing down and enjoying the present.
With such an interesting family ethnicity, I’m dying to know what kind of food you cook at home!
We do eat quite a wild mix of foods due in large part to our travels and our family roots. It is actually one of the things that we struggle with since moving to Sicily. We miss having easy access to diverse restaurants and/or food supplies. My son spent most of his early years in Japan and his favorite foods are Japanese…okonomiyaki, sushi, Japanese curry rice, miso soup, etc. We all love Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Cuban, Greek and Lebanese foods so I try to incorporate those into our meals. It’s one of the reasons I am so glad my kids have lived and travelled so much at such a young age. They are not picky eaters. And then there are the Jewish and Cajun meals that always seem to heal whatever ails us. Matzo ball soup really does have some amazing healing powers and gumbois good for homesickness. But to be honest, I hate long, complicated recipes so whatever we cook, it has to be easy and fairly quick. I’d much rather spend my time working in the garden and so many times I will just throw together a quick meal of what is fresh in the garden or in the market, add some couscous, a salad, maybe grill some meat or fish and call it dinner. And sometimes we just end up eating scrambled eggs for dinner!
What advice would you give to someone planning to move to Italy?
I am a big reader so before any moves or trips, I always hunt down as many books as I possibly can (both fiction and non-fiction). My favorite Sicilian reads are: The Stone Boudoir, In Etna’s Shadow, Sicily Land of Myth , Sweet Sicily , and Walking in Sicily. In addition to books, there are so many great ex-pat blogs and travel websites these days that you can gorge yourself on information and get just about all of your questions/concerns answered via the internet. Be active about gathering information and making connections even before your arrival. And then prepare to make the most of the unexpected pleasures and pains of a new place…it is part of the full experience and just like parenting nothing can fully prepare you, so, hold on and enjoy the ride!
When and why did you start blogging?
I started blogging in 2006 when we were living in Japan and we were in the midst of adopting our daughter from Taiwan. It started as way to keep in touch with friends and family and to document our experiences in Asia.
What do you blog about?
Just like the title of our blog, it is quite a mix but overall I’d say it boils down to: travel, creative endeavors, family life (including issues related to adoption), and natural explorations, with some occasional recipes, reading recommendations, and rants thrown in for good measure.
In addition to our family blog, I have also recently started writing for a wonderful site called The Magnifying Glass which highlights the joys of exploring the natural world with children.
What has blogging given you?
The two most important things are connections and a creative outlet. I enjoy all of the interesting relationships I have made around the globe in real and virtual life through reading and writing blogs. Blogging has also given me a very satisfying way to keep up with my photography and writing. I like making the time to collect, reflect, and extract slices of our everyday life.
All your blog posts are interesting but can you recommend one or two especially for Italy Magazine readers?
One of my favorite posts about our new life in Italy is Ranch Dressing and Peanut Butter. If Italy Magazine readers are curious to see more of our Sicilian experiences I’d recommend they read the posts labeled Sicily. It’s been lots of fun to write about our adventures here and I am looking forward to many more.
Happy blogging, Lucia and thank you for talking to Italy Magazine.