The onions and potatoes this lady is selling at the Mercato di Capo in Palermo, Sicily would be delicious in goat stew.

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Your answer to this question would identify your social class in Calabria, southern Italy during the years 1897 to 1913.

The Inheritance explores family dynamics within the rigid social structure that existed in Calabria at this time and food is a tool used in the novel to help show the differences between the classes.

Did You Choose Goat Stew?

If so, you’d be having dinner in Chapter Three with the peasants who lived in Cetraro and worked for the Marino family that owned the Villa San Michelle.

Caterina is five years old in this chapter and her father, Edoardo, has just returned to their cottage after working all day for the Marino’s. Caterina tells him that she’s been helping her godmother, Zia Elda, prepare goat stew for their dinner. She has peeled the potatoes and Nicoletta, Zia Elda’s daughter, has cut the onions. Zio Ermengildo killed the goat but the children were not permitted to watch him.

What’s the big deal about goats?

Goat and sheep have been tended in Calabria since Roman times and the people have historically relied on these animals for milk, meat and cheese. Goat stew is a basic recipe and this scene recreates a typical incident that helps build an authentic sense of place for The Inheritance. The circumstances depicted paint a picture for the reader, which provides a snapshot of the ordinary life of a peasant family.

Did You Choose Swordfish?

If so, you’d be a guest in Chapter Nine at Santo Marino’s annual lavish Natale celebrations at the Villa San Michelle.

The food served at this party mirrors the Marino’s wealth and upper class status. Calabria is surrounded by the sea on three sides and fresh fish has always been a primary source of food in the region. As a result, there were many fish delicacies prepared for guests.

A fish is a fish is a fish.

Not really.

Bruno, the cook at the Villa San Michelle, made specialized fish dishes such as pesca spade alla Bagnarese, a swordfish dish and novellame, an anchovy caviar-like spread for Santo’s guests. The peasants ate fish prepared simply; delicacies like these would be foreign to their palate.

Food is more than something you eat.

The contrast of the food served at the Villa San Michelle vis-à-vis what the peasants typically ate reveals the extreme differences in classes. The conflicts that rage in the book are rooted in many reasons but the rigid social structure serves as the foundation on which it rests. To a writer, food is more than something you eat.

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What dishes did your family prepare for special occasions? I’d welcome your comments.

I hope you enjoy my photographs.

Man preparing swordfish for selling in market

Do you think Bruno would like this swordfish from the Mercato di Capo in Palermo, Sicily for his pesca spade alla Bagnarese?

Mozzarella di Bufala in this Insalata Caprese

The mozzarella di bufala in this Insalata Caprese was another specialty food Santo ordered for his Natale celebrations at the Villa San Michelle.

Mercato di Capo

Every detail helps build a story. Can you find the satellite dish and security camera in this scene from the Mercato di Capo, Palermo, Sicily?