West Yorkshire is about to get a special visit from the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Some of the most authentic producers with long family heritage and a true love for organic food, are now packing their bags to attend an Italian people’s party – a ‘Festa della Repubblica’.
Beer with home-grown ingredients, various Sicilian wines, organic olive oils, fish and special art, are just a few items on the menu to be delivered to West Yorkshire in 24nd to the 25th of June at University Academy Keighley. The goal is to share a part of true Sicily with the north of England and tell the real Sicilian story to the community.
“Sicily is about sun, sea and culture, but during the past 20 years, our reputation has been contaminated by stories about the mafia. We now want to run this event to show that our island can be a resource, not just a problem, like we were seen as in the past”, says Prof. Giuseppe Arnone, President of European Italian Foundation and sponsor of the ‘Festa della Repubblica’.
According to the organisers, this party aims to unite people of all origins, classes and religions through their love and passion for food and drink. This has, for a long time, been a big part of Sicilian way of life and socializing has become a massive part of the island’s history.
According to many Sicilians, this tradition started when a foreign king came to rule the island. Originally from Germany, Fredrick the II, became a face for integration through his welcoming politics. He spoke six languages and was an avid promoter of the sciences, art and poetry, which allowed him to unite talent and create a great environment for new ideas to flourish. His influence expanded through the continent and reached as far as Jerusalem. This welcoming approach is, today, still a great example for many Sicilians”.
“We see Fredrick II as a great inspiration. It is what makes us travel to places where Sicilian culture is less known. We want to make sure that towns like Keighley get a true picture of who we are, so these producers have been carefully selected to represent Sicilian heritage”, says Prof Arnone.
Many of the producers travel internationally on regular basis, but traveling to a small town in Northern England, is a first for everyone involved.
“We are very exited. We normally never get a chance to visit towns like Keighley”, say Linda Galioto, the marketing director for Tenuta Macconi, a fully organic farm that focuses on re-creating the original environment and produces wine, honey and olive oil in a completely natural way.
While applying a multi-purpose agricultural thinking ethos, to create the natural habitat for the vegetation, Tenuta Macconi breeds authentic Sicilian black bees, a breed particularly adapted to the heat, but is now endangered due to climate change, according to Naples University.
By allowing bees into a cross breeding environment, the Tenuta Macconi team have experienced a massive improvement in the quality of the product. Bees collect nectar from all the surrounding trees, while getting rid of dangerous insects, allowing the farm to run without pesticides. But despite the massive improvement in productivity, the farm has chosen to keep the production low and the quality high and, as a result, sold out of olive oil at their first trade show, but kept a few bottles safe for Keighley.
“We could produce a lot more if we use hot extraction, but that would reduce the quality. We choose to produce less but make sure that we maintain our standards. Much like heating oil in the pan, it reduces the quality”, says Francesco Scibota, the agricultural manager of the farm.
Of course, no party would run without a good drink at hand, so some of the most unusual beer producers are making their way to town. Bruno Ribadi offers a twist on English Ale by including Sicilian ingredients in every bottle, adding berries and mandarins into traditional pale ale. The team, literally, found inspiration in their uncle’s loft. While trying to tidy up the mess, they found a hand written book with masses amount of beer recipes from around the world. After some googling and local knowledge, the team found out that that the author, Bruno Ribadi, came from a small Sicilian town of Cinisa. He was an orphan and was sent to a monastery to get a religious education, where he used his time to get in touch with a Belgian monk, who specialised in brewing beer. After learning the basics, Ribadi decided to travel the world on a tasting tour to discover the secrets of beer, from every hidden corner of the planet.
Now, the team is looking to bring his legacy back to life, by producing beers from around the world.
“We made Bruno Ribadi travel the world again”, says the master brewer Sandro Biundo while pointing at the colourful bottles stacked in the office located in small the corner of the brewery. All ready to take off to be enjoyed by the people of Keighley.
“Here’s Ribadi on the road to England”, continues Biundo when holding blue-labelled bottle proudly showing the Union Jack while Ribadi himself is dressed like any colourful, creative hipster, walking the Soho streets at night, ready to take an English ale back to it’s spiritual origin, with a little Sicilian twist.
But, of course, no twist can be truly Sicilian without some food to go with it. This is why some of the most authentic tuna is getting ready to come along. The Nonno Peppino fish factory is a small family business that started 1926 when Grandpa Peppino Brunetto. He took the Sicilian tradition of keeping the fish in organic salt and mixed it with a variety of local flavours.
Using traditional methods, the manager Giuseppe Brunetto, grandson of the original founder, continues the mission of bringing quality fish to market while maintaining the balance of the sea. Delivering tuna and anchovies in authentic Sicilian way, he feels that it is important to preserve the quality, the taste and the environment.
“We have to take responsibility for the sea and keep the fish population healthy. We use long line fishing techniques along with seine nets that make to keep the balance of the sea. This way, we don’t waste fish. This is a part of the family tradition that has past on through generations” says Brunetto.
With the sun setting over the largest island in the Mediterranean, the food is prepared and the wine and beer all packed, ready for the journey from the mountainous terrain up to Keighley. The people are in for a treat as their Mediterranean guests head into town. Of course everyone is welcome to ‘Festa Della Republica’ event, which will be held the weekend of 24th and 25th of June at” University Academy Keighley. 10am to 7pm on the Saturday and 10am to 6pm on the Sunday. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
By Yelena Kensborn