If Sicily is in some respects removed from the Italian mainland, then the Aeolian Islands are to a degree removed from Sicily, and the tiny island of Filicudi is among the outermost of the Aeolian Islands. Last count about 250 stalwart souls reside on the craggy islet year round.
Translator, tour consultant, and molecular biologist Giusi Murabito and IT specialist, world traveler, and author Saverio Bruno have teamed to chronicle the lives and the unique cuisine of this sequestered morsel of an island buoyed in the Tyrrhenian Sea 56 km (about 35 miles) northeast of Sicily. Women’s Cooking: Tales and recipes from Filicudi is the harvest of their findings.
Giusi Murabito, one of the authors announces in the Introduction to the book, …”what has remained the same throughout the centuries are the recipes, the mule trails, and the determination of the women of Filicudi to continue doing things the way their mothers and grandmothers did.”
Yes, this book is not simply a conventional cookbook with a nice list of recipes. Each portion of the book is devoted to an individual woman who lives and cooks on the island of Filicudi. There is an opening paragraph introducing the woman, then, a narrative that interlaces both the woman’s personal journey on the island and her culinary journey. The final part of each section is devoted to the woman’s particularly favorite recipes.
Most of the young people have departed from Filicudi, but Corinna Rando a young woman explains why she persists on the island, “Maybe it is the air, the green of nature, or the sea. I don’t know, but it seems we have all we need and…it’s free.”
Alessandra Li Donni, born in Lipari chose to live in Filicudi. It was the home of her husband. “In Lipari you feel like you’re living in a town,” Li Donni tells her interviewers, “while here you feel like you are living outside of the world.”
Ada Foti preparing Panne Caliata (dry bread) uses a “…wood oven that she prepares with a mix of aromatic woods: olive tree branches, broom, bushes, dry artemisia, ivy and corbezzelo branches.” In the Twenty-first Century, this woman cuts these aromatic woods herself and searches the nearby fields for the wild plants, all to be cooked on an open fire when a stove is available.
Most of the women tell that the hardest part of life on the island is living through a winter of rough seas, grey skies, and frequent punishing storms. Adelaide Rando says, “Not all storms are meant to kill you. Some are intended to clear the way for you.” And, a way is cleared for tranquil living and a devotion to cooking that has heighten food to the stature of poetry, a rustic unpretentious poetry but a poetry with a power rivaling D’Annunzio.
It is prodigious to find so much in a book of only 160 pages. This book has captured the beauty, humanity, and culinary peaks of life on a tiny island off the shores of Sicily.
Women’s Cooking: Tales and recipes from Filicudi, by Giusi Murabito and Saverio Bruno, Self-Published; 1st edition (October 10, 2023), 160 pages, US Premium Edition $30.00/US Standard Edition $20.00/UK Premium Edition £24.42/UK Standard Edition £16.24.
Mark Spano is a writer and filmmaker. He has recently held zoom Q&A for a Melbourne Australia Sicilian group. Also completed a short marketing/fundraising film for Family Promise of the Triangle. Spano completed a feature documentary entitled “Reimagining Sicily” that explores the rich aspects of the island’s history and culture that are relatively unknown across global media. He holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and Creative Writing and an MBA in Marketing. He is a Sicilian American residing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.