“It will be two years in July since I had this meal, and it was great not only because of what I ate, but also because of the beautiful setting. I was traveling with seven friends, two from Palermo, Italy, and the rest from the Charlottesville area. I remember it was very hot, about two in the afternoon, but there was a nice breeze because we were on a ship. It was a real pirate ship, no kidding. It had been rescued from the floor of the sea and put back to sail. A scruffy Italian guy—he actually looked like a pirate—led us on a tour, sailing off the coast of Agrigento, Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea. The sky was as blue as blue could be, and so was the water. The sails were billowing in the breeze. We were on the deck, enjoying the scenery—mainly the Scala dei Turchi, the white, rounded cliffs that look like they have giant steps cut into them. Our guide started cooking. He had a one-burner stove and a really large skillet. As we were gliding past the cliffs, he heated up the pan and put in a rich, robust Sicilian olive oil, garlic, some salt and pepper, and fresh fish—I believe it was either sardines or anchovies. He made a paste out of the ingredients, then added some white wine and fresh pasta. He mixed it all together and grated a generous amount of cheese on top. It was very hard, sharp, and fresh-tasting—my guess is it was a sheep-milk cheese. He ladled a serving onto a plate for each of us, and handed us a glass of white wine. I’ll never forget it, the smell of the food and the salty air, the incredible scenery. It was the most delicious thing ever.”—Jill Myers, as told to Joe Bargmann
Jill Myers is an olive-oil importer, sommelier, and distributor who lives in Albemarle County. She sells her products online, to local chefs, and she helps stock the shelves at places like The Spice Diva, Foods of All Nations, and Mona Lisa Pasta.