Smile | If You Think Saving the Planet's Funny
Madonie Porcine e Saline Italiano
This recipe works wonders in spicing up bland or freeze-dried backpacking fare
By Peter Frick-Wright
Set off into the Italian wilderness for four days of trekking between towns on the island of Sicily. The idea is to work up an appetite on the trail and dine in a local restaurant each night. Americans think of Europe as the home of fine dining; Europeans regard Italy as the place to go to eat well; and Italians speak of the food in Sicily with tears in their eyes.
In case of an emergency, grab a few chocolate bars and a package of pasta from a local store. Be careful not to buy too much, because if everything goes right, you won't need these. Be careful not to buy too little, because almost nothing will go right.
- 1 map of Madonie National Park, aged beyond any useful correspondence to current trails and terrain
- 2 tin cans, fashioned into rickety alcohol-burning stoves after several grueling minutes of research on YouTube
- 1 long-haired, bearded trekking buddy named Ivan, who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus and with whom you've planned many multiple-night backpacking trips—all of them aborted
- In a small town just inside Madonie National Park, search for a massive lunch that you hope will mitigate the need for dinner. At 1:30 p.m., come to the agonizing realization that local restaurants are closed between 1 and 5.
- At a fork in the trail, veer right. Then go back and veer left. Then find a road beneath some power lines that must lead to the bridge shown on the map. For an extra kick, find a gate near the road and stretch the barbed wire so you can squeeze through it. If that's not spicy enough, add an angry Italian man yelling at you from up the road. If it becomes too hot for your taste, neutralize by fleeing into the woods.
- Stuck in thornbushes in total darkness, resign yourself to the fact that there is no bridge, just a big river and a faulty map. Creep toward the river until the muddy ground feels a different type of squishy and you notice a smell. Look down to find yourself standing on a dead pig, its internal organs eaten away down to the spine. Your need for a real dinner now mitigated, flee into the woods again.
- Make camp in a clearing beside the road. This may be illegal, but take heart that you are in a Catholic culture and your trekking partner looks like Jesus.
- Hyperventilate while attempting to build a fire with soggy twigs. "Boil" noodles, then watch as Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the masses with pasta he spills in the dirt.
- Salvage what noodles are left and top them with an elegant, Mediterranean-inspired sauce consisting of . . . salt.*
- Wake to blue skies. Find a well-worn trail not on the map but seemingly headed in the right direction. Two hours later, admit that you are in fact on a pig trail, crawling in tunnels rooted out by wild boars through thorny thickets.
- Discuss what to do if confronted by a wild boar in the bowels of Madonie. Ideas include "I don't know" and "I don't know either." Maintain a very long silence.
- Break for lunch while still stuck in the thickets and with last night's camping spot visible across the valley. As the crow flies, you've come a quarter mile. As the pig moseys, it's taken four hours.
- At 5:30 p.m., as it gets dark, watch your feeble YouTube stove again try to heat water for pasta. At 7:30 p.m., with the water almost boiling, watch Jesus perform the miracle where he knocks the water all over his shoes.
11. Let the pasta soak in lukewarm water until bendable. Then force it down so you can go to sleep. (Time-saving tip: Uncooked pasta is edible, technically. If you care about the texture, you're not really hungry.)
- Slouch into town mid-afternoon the next day, soaked by rain. Wait grumpily for restaurants to open. Choose the most family-owned-looking among them and request something typical of the area. Nod excitedly when they recommend smoked wild boar on soft homemade bread, followed by pasta with tomato sauce, almonds, raisins, fennel, a local cheese, and sardines. Speak of it later with tears in your eyes.
* The key to this sauce is to inadvertently mix it with water as you hike, so it clumps even after being stirred into the noodles. You'll know it's right when each bite delivers either a tasteless squirm of pasta or the punch of a gulp of seawater.
Peter Frick-Wright, a frequent contributor to Sierra, last wrote about Oregon river surfer Elijah Mack ("Against the Flow," May/June).
Illustration by Tim Bower