Hidden kitchens

Sicily vineyard

The Kitchen Sisters are back on NPR's The Salt with a new installment of their Hidden Kitchens series. The series travels the world, exploring little known kitchen rituals and traditions that illustrate how communities come together, from modern-day Sicily to medieval England and from the Australian Outback to California. The Kitchen Sisters are Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, Peabody Award-winning producers who create radio and multimedia stories. In this season's first story, they explore how Sicilians are reclaiming farmland and providing Mafia-free jobs in a region gripped by corruption.

The story reports that in the last several years, "the effort to bring the Mafia under control in Sicily has spilled over into the world of food." Land confiscated from the Mafia is now being farmed by small organic agricultural cooperatives. To show that the products from these farms have nothing to do with the Mafia, the growers banded together to create Libera Terra, a brand that identifies products, such as organic olive oil, wine, pasta, grains, and cheeses, that are Mafia-free. Francesco Galante, spokesman and leader of the Libera Terra (which translates as "free land"), notes the organization "wants to make products people buy not just for their story but for their quality." Additonal goals are to provide workers with fair wages, lower the Sicilian unemployment rate, and tackle corruption.

While Libera Terra is attacking the Mafia's hold on the agricultural system, Sicilians are fighting another problem, that of businesses paying protection money to the Mafia in a practice known as pizzo. An anti-pizzo movement began in earnest in 2004, when "a group of anti-Mafia student activists decided to open a café in Palermo and began questioning what they would do if the Mafia came around, asking for pizzo." They fought back with an ingenious idea: printing out anti-pizzo (Addiopizzo) stickers that they put on lampposts, windows and curbs all over the Palermo in a blitz operation. The stickers read: "The people who pay the pizzo are a people without dignity." The Addiopizzo sticker on the door of a restaurant or hotel in Sicily tells you the establishment does not pay extortion money to the Mafia.  Libera Terra leader Galante says "The idea of the Addiopizzo movement is to say 'no' to the pizzo. Farewell pizzo."

Look for more installments to the Hidden Kitchens series in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy NPR



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