Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tripping to Sicily on a Leopard

Looking Sicilian

On Friday night ten people gathered at Casa Aquino to discuss Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel The Leopard and to eat a Sicilian spread. I think we were unanimous in our love for the novel, and the food disappeared, so I believe everyone was happy. Before I post pictures and the menu and have your attention, I wonder if you might hear me out about an idea I have of making this Books & Bakes literary and food salon an online business as well. What I'm thinking is a website where one can download the whole package -- the book suggestion, discussion questions and background/supplemental material and links, a full menu for the accompanying meal and recipes to download with links to where products can be found or ordered. You would, basically, be able to have a literary and food salon of your own, wherever you are and with whomever you'd like to invite, and I'd provide you with everything except, obviously, my physical presence. I'd appreciate your comments and suggestions for how much you'd pay for something like that. Given the constraints of caregiving, I am really trying to get creative with freelance work, so this might be a possibility.

Let me know.

In other news, I am going to Sicily with my sisters, cousin and father next weekend. My father turned 80 years old last April, and we decided that we'd like to take him to the old country. We'll be going to Sicily first because we've never been, but then we're headed to Calabria and the town where our family began. I am not sure what kind of internet service I will have while away, nor will I know if I can post from my phone, but if I'm gone for ten days, you'll know why. I'll take lots of pictures, in any case and post them on Instagram, if you'd like to check out my feed there.

Here's the menu from Friday night and some photos, excepting the dried fava bean soup, homemade cannoli and vanilla ice-cream. I forgot to take pictures of those! I would like to give a shout-out to my cousin Danielle who lived in Sicily for years and helped me with the menu. I ordered genuine Sicilian products from Gustiamo, a wonderful Italian food distributor where she works and highly recommend the outrageously delicious Sicilian extra-virgin olive oil and Sicilian sea salt. OMG, as the kids say.

September 30, 2016
The Leopard
By Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”


Campari and Blood Orange Soda

Polipetti Murati
Slow-Cooked Octopus with Estratto and Wine

Sicilian Dried Fava Bean Soup

Pesto alla Trapanese with Busiate Pasta

Insalata di Lenticche con Menta e Scorzetta di Arancia
Lentil Salad with Mint and Orange Zest

Citrus Salad with Anchovies and Black Olives


Vanilla Ice-Cream with Sicilian Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Big Ole Pan of Caponata

Caponata and Italian Flatbread

Insalata di Lenticche

Citrus Salad of Blood Oranges, Oranges and Grapefruit with Anchovies and Sicilian Black Olives

Polipetti Murati

Pesto alla Trapanese with Busciati Pasta


  1. Okay. So I was feeling pretty good about the supper I'm making until I saw this.
    You are amazing. Also? Gorgeous.

  2. Lord! A to-die-for menu, it looks luscious.
    Sounds like a great idea, you are so inventive, but I don't know any people..ha
    Oliver changes so fast, what a handsome young man. And you, well, what can I say? Tres Belle!

  3. I don't think I would take advantage of the online book group idea because since I've experienced the real thing - you and your cooking - I don't think I could come near what you provide. I wouldn't do the cooking myself and you are just so way ahead of most other readers at the group I feel like I'm learning in addition to meeting new people. However, I might know others who would be interested in this idea. Say more about what you would charge for this.

  4. BTw, have a fantastic time in Italy!!!! Happy birthday to your dad!!!

  5. Ah! Though my family is Northern Italian mostly (with Sicilian by marriage) this all looks like home to me. I love this idea too, of marketing a package like this. I also think it would make a great book idea too.

  6. I think that is definitely a cool idea! I have just started going to a book club in my city but we are doing things different. We meet in a coffee shop because none of want to cook! I think this would really take off in a bigger city. In the end, what do you have to lose? Worth a try for sure.

    You are looking especially lovely and Italian. xo

  7. Wow, Elizabeth--on both pieces of news.
    Have a wonderful time in Sicily.
    I would love to get caught up with you after your return!

  8. I adore that photo of you and Oliver. It might be my favorite portrait of you both. You look so cool and literary, and he is just so chill with his peace sign. As for your online salon, I probably wouldn't do because the cooking would feel like a bridge too far for me; but I will ask friends what they think and report back. Here's another idea: A book for book clubs that includes ten or twenty titles selected by you, and their associated discussion questions, links and recipes. It could be called Elizabeth Aquino's Books & Bakes Literary Salon, and you could add new volumes from time to time. You could start with the salons you've already done so you don't have to invent the wheel. This would be in addition to your online offering, just another way to leverage an amazing idea.

  9. I would give such a book as gifts ALL the time, to everyone, whether they liked cooking or not. It would just be such a cool thing to have.

  10. Create a book that I can give as a present! And the online package for those who can't join you !

  11. People are entering that the recipes seem like a lot of work to create (and my thought was, I'd like to try those things but I'm not sure I could afford any of the ingredients, and would cheap Wal-mart olive oil work on ice cream??!) ... But you the work and invest in the ingredients because you're generating return on your investment, right? So the people who pay to download your package will also plan to generate income? They'd be looking at the salon as an investment? If so, if it was a kind of franchise, you could make quite a bit. Instead of pitching your idea to random folks reading your blog, why not target it to people who are set up to host literary salons and have the starting money to purchase the ingredients, and maybe a client base already? People with small teashops or bookstores or restaurants? People who do a lot of Tupperware parties or makeover parties and want to diversify their offerings? So if I had ten friends over and charged $45 each (I'm in Chattanooga, so that would be a nice big charge here) then I'd look to make $450. I'd look to price the ingredients (no idea, but $100 maybe?) and see how much I wanted to make, and then look at your fee. SO maybe if I wanted to make 50% profit, and I paid $100 for ingredients, I'd be willing to pay $125 to download your material? That's just a sample of how I might think it through.

  12. Anonymous has the right idea - market to people who are willing to cook for others! I am always blown away by the menus for your books and bakes salons. They sound both delicious and like too much work. :-) Book groups might be more amenable to chipping in to hire someone else to come cook for them and lead discussion. As long as there is wine, of course!

  13. You are so fortunate to be able to get away to such great places. I have a child much like Sophie. 24/7 care so I get it! I can barely go to the bathroom alone much less ever get away for a vacation. That has never and will never happen. You must have great respite in CA. too.



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