‘U Pani cunzatu’ is the memory of a family tradition, a treasure that came to me “hand picked” from the sea.
I come from the sea ... I come from summer mornings awake at dawn … early, very early for fear that my dad wouldn’t wake me up to take me to work with him. I was small and “female” … and the marina was not the ideal place for a child.
But I’ve never had problems of this kind.
I come from dawn with a view of the Coda della Volpe, the rock under the viewpoint of the thermal baths where we all stop to enjoy the view of the sea during the beautiful days.
I come from the voices of the sailors who “abbanniavano” (shouted) from the quay the “size” of the anchovies and the cost. They call it auction, but it was a big mess to me … people screaming for fish.
Once bought, the fish was followed by a phone call to the “salty warehouse” (now called the canning fish industry hall) and an organizational machine of no small importance was set in motion.
“Li fimmini” (the workers) who “waited for the call” went to work in the blink of an eye or waited for the van to pick them up.
In the meantime, the anchovies arrived at the warehouse, were unloaded and immediately placed in the tubs with the brine so that the fish “ntostava” (stiffened). The story of this hard work, of their people and a tradition of Sciacca relives in one of the experiential tourism projects.
It is the story of 4 generations … starting with my great-grandfather Nicolò Barna, who was made a knight of labour by King Vittorio Emanuele on January 15, 1932, then my grandfather, my father … up to me.
Tales that from the sea of Sciacca reach far … very far.
The workers (li fimmini) during the winter months when the already mature anchovies were filleted to put them in oil, used to have lunch with “pane cunzato”, seasoned bread.
It was a tasty and ingenious way to save in times of economic hardship. So the worker only bought bread in the morning before going to work.
When it was time for “lintari” (to disconnect from work for the lunch break), she took some of the freshly processed anchovies with her to the canteen, she added a little oil from that area and a little salt.
She came up with one of the best delicacies of Sicilian poor cuisine “u pani cunzatu”.
Many times the workers, even if they only had that piece of bread, used to share it with “i salatura” (the men who managed the warehouse and the processed product).
Because in a small community of “salt warehouse” one did not feel like colleagues but part of a family.