Friday, December 24, 2010
You know how cute it is when children just start to talk? Mimicking adults without really knowing what they are saying? Well, one of the first sentences my daughters learned, and knew full well what it meant, was “Accattate le rizze.” Speak Italian, but still don’t know what that means? Well, it’s Barese dialect, and it’s what we hear fishermen yelling every morning outside my mother-in-law’s home in Bari. “Accattate le rizze!”
But it turns out my daughters weren’t just blindly mimicking. They understood exactly what they fishermen were yelling. “Buy sea urchins! Buy sea urchins!” You see my husband grew up in Bari, along the Lungomare, right across from the port where the fishermen bring in their small wooden boats. They would tie them up, and set up their tables selling the catch of the day.
While most of the haul is bought and taken home to be cooked, sea urchins, or le rizze, are opened by hand and eaten standing up right there and then. With hands as tough as leather, the fishermen use a knife to open up the belly of the spiny creatures, revealing the bright orange row. Plopped on a plastic plate, they are ready to be eaten as is, with the help of a crust of bread to scoop up every last bit.
Since this is Sophie and Emma’s favorite food, it’s no wonder they can say sea urchin in English, Italian and Barese. If it’s the right time of year (as long as there is an ‘r’ in the month} we head across the street from Nonna’s house to buy a mid-morning snack of sea urchins every day we are here. And even though tonight we’ll be feasting on more-than-seven fishes, we didn’t see any reason not to add one more to the list this morning.
If you're in Bari, the part of the Lungomare where you buy sea urchins is just to the south of the Teatro Margarita. The fishermen are there every morning, and have sea urchins in all but the hottest months. Is it safe to eat raw seafood here? Who knows?! I wouldn't eat a raw mussel, but I did eat a tartufo di mare this morning (some other type of sea barnacle) and I'm still walking.