Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marzamemi and wild white beaches

We were supposed to go to Stromboli for a 2-day break before the high season kicks in and we'll have no more days off until September. But the weather got quite stormy and the sea was going to be rough for the crossing so at the last minute we cancelled, and opted for Marzamemi and the wild white beaches of Southern Sicily (near Syracusa). There's an international film festival on there in this quaint fishing village, with screens up in the main piazza and side streets. There is now a motorway the whole way there basically, so we were there in 2.5 hours, fantastic. After Catania the terrain changes, becoming lower and smoother, more open fields cultivated for vineyards, olive groves, hay, wheat etc and then around Marzamemi there are km and km of stretches of greenhouses – all semicircular, low-lying for the melons and higher arches for the Pachino tomatoes. I was most disappointed to discover that the Pachino,or cherry tomatoes are not indigenous to Pachino, as it would seem; but rather have been genetically modified to become the small sweet burst of juicy flavour that they are! And of course they don’t really have a season since they are greenhouse products.

Our agriturismo was in the middle of such fields with lovely views over vineyards, wheat fields, Pachino greenhouses and the sound of birdsong, very peaceful, and only five minutes drive from Marzamemi – and Pachino, not that there is much reason to go to Pachino.

We arrived 3.30ish since we found it really hard to get up on Monday morning. Our aiuto cuoco didn’t come to work Sunday night - had a fever - the Italian male phenomenon of the fever – and mia suocera was in Montalbano on holiday, so of course, as we should only have expected, it was our busiest night in months, and we were all run off our feet. The bad weather helped; everyone came to dine at ours because we have good space inside. A table of 12 in the side room who didn't book (of course not. Upstairs filled quickly, and downstairs tables had several sittings. Only one waiter. Our lavapiatti (dishwasher guy) tried to give a hand as aiuto cuoco but on his third Panini when he only had two orders in front of him, he was already in state of panic so mio marito had to keep checking in on the kitchen. The cuoco stayed calm and worked his way methodically though all the orders; I have to say there were no complaints, no mistakes and indeed several compliments, though a few tables did ask about their delay for their food, but all good natured. UNfortunately a table of 5 of our good friends were the last to order and so had quite a long wait. When we ARE actually busy we probably give the impression of being completely unprepared. Bad luck. I had to stay until 2am and mio marito later. My whole body ached with the effort of carting food and trays up and down the stairs so I was wrecked. But we got our delicious cappuccino on Monday morning at Bar Alexander, the best cream croissant in town.

We headed straight ot San Lorenzo and got sandwiches on the beach and the lido and then lay on the sand but we didn’t even get a swim because it clouded over dramatically with huge sweeping grey rainclouds and we all left the beach when the first drops fell. The sky was clear towards Marzamemi so we headed there for a stroll, lovely it looked in the evening light. The blue fishing boats in the tiny port, and the old stone building where all the cute bars are tucked away. Very pretty and picturesque. Got seated at Suruq, a cute bar on the piazza with great views of the screen. There was quite a breeze and it felt quite chilly, amazing after the tremendous heat and humidity of the last week in Milazzo. Depressing French film about immigration, called Welcome. But nice to be in the piazza. After there was an old Italian comedy about a man who collects sounds for the special effects on cartoons, so funny. Volere Volare. The next night the protagonist was sitting beside us!

Tuesday was a fabulous day on the Isola delle correnti (the Mediterranean and the Ionic Sea meet - the Med beach has choppy waves and lots of kite surfing, and the Ionic beach is calm with little breeze), beautiful beaches. We went to Pachino first in search of a newsagent. What a horrible town. Takes forever to get though it because of a weird oneway system weaving up through the high part of town, it is all built on a steep incline and the streets have no markings to let you know who has right of way. Run down houses with crumbling fronts, petrol stations in centre of town. Three old ladies gathered in the entrance ot a house fanning themselves, dressed identically in their below the knee smock dresses. Old men smoking in the piazza. Have never seen so many old people smoking. Also at our agritusimo, snow white hair, no teeth and a cigarette at the granny and the old granda’s lips.

Also had great walks on Caracois beach, just 4km from Isola delle Correnti down a dirt track. huge long wild beach with long white waves. Great beach for kite surfing. Two chiringuito beach bars but it was too windy to sit for an aperitivo. This beach is full of falò - bonfires - on the Night of San Lorenzo 10 August, we were there a couple of years ago gazing at the night sky to spot shooting stars aong with everyone else.

Best beaches in Sicily here.

Cook number 4

19 July 2010

The usual back-and-forth going on between the potential new cook and ourselves regarding the contract and pay. In this country it seems the power lies with the employee. Or perhaps it is just because they know we have no one else lined up. How they boast about their talents is quite something. Perhaps we are all just too humble in Ireland. This cook, or should I say ‘chef’, started off with an unattainable figure for his pay (again – it was he who named the sum, not us …), knowing full well that this would oblige us to counteroffer a high figure and that somewhere in between would probably be agreed. We watched him at work this week, but it was a fairly quiet one for the kitchen. While compliments were received for the food, we never got to see him deal with 3 or 4 orders arriving at once, or a full restaurant. Just as well for his first week, as he needs time to note how we do things etc, but it is hard for us in such limited time to discover just how competent he really is. I want to call up some of his previous employers, but again it appears that this would only further complicate matters. He accepted our proposed rate of pay – which will allow for a higher rate during the peak time in August – but it is easy money for him. If he has worked in these places he has shown us, in photos and on CV, he will have had to work a lot harder than he has for us, where the average is 4 or 5 tables during the week, and 5 or 6 at weekends, not forgetting that many orders are for panini or antipasti, which he does not deal with.

Mio marito’s mother has been in bad form all week and now I realise it is because she does not like this cook. They have little to say to each other. She thinks he is full of himself and all chat, probably because so far they have all been like that. He didn’t participate much in the extra Sunday cleaning last night either I noticed. He picked up things and pretended to be getting on with some cleaning when I came into the kitchen, but my sister-in-law confirmed that her mother and the dishwasher did the most part. Well, next Sunday she won’t be on, so he will have to get on with some of it. Though we will no doubt discover that things are not as well cleaned as when she does them. Without a more detailed CV and a chat to previous employers I find it is impossible to get a clear picture of what we can ask and expect of an employee. And in the meantime, I think they use every trick in the book to get what they want from us. Having accepted out proposed pay, it was almost like he was doing us a favour by accepting this compromise, but he said he was happy to do so since we are ‘good people’ and he is working with good people in the kitchen and he lives within walking distance (so no petrol money). He did the usual chat that all the others have come out with, I could nearly save them their breath at this stage: ‘You can trust me, I am a reliable person, I have years of experience and it has taught me that most restaurateurs are nasty, profiteering people, but I see you are honest and honourable people and I will do my best, it is all about respect .. blabla bla and so the person gets the job. WHY can’t we use some sensible North-European interview techniques at this stage? Every time we have been disappointed, each and every ‘cook’ we have hired has tried it on. I could see him in my mind replacing ‘nasty’ and ‘profiteering’ with, in our case, ‘young’ and ‘gullible’. Funny, but as soon as they do that whole ‘You can trust me, I am a reliable person’ speech, any hope or faith I had in that person just dissipates into the humid Sicilian air.

In the tradition of all the previous cooks, he made a semifreddo to try and impress me. He told me himself he wanted me to taste it and then mio marito told me that he was keen for ‘tua moglie’ to try it. The semifreddo alle mandorle, (almond) is just too sweet for me, like most Sicilian desserts. His had a layer of caramelised almonds on top, which just made it totally inedible for me, and then it was to be served with chocolate sauce. Way too much sugar for me, but the semifreddo itself was nice and I know that is what Sicilians like. He is at least the fourth ‘cook’ who has thought that impressing the wife with the desserts is a good way to get the job. Little do they know that it is a lot harder to win my sceptical North European heart.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

outrageously sexist solar panels

This obscenity is plastered on several billboards around Milazzo. It just clarifies, in case anyone was still in doubt, what Sicilian males think of women. Here, we have a woman, naked apart from her red shoes, advertising solar panels. This commercial says "Montami a costa zero." A play on words. Montami means 'set me up' ie in the sense of having your solar panels installed - but it also means 'Ride me' and the Sicilian males have photographed the girl in just the position in which they would like to do so.

Needless to say my Spanish friend and other members of the Donne Libere have already been on to the company to get rid of this degrading and volgar and chauvinistic advertisement. The director simply doesn't undersand what the problem is.... There is no hope. 2010 in Sicily.

Yet another chef ...

We had the new cook on trial last night. He just came for a few hours. He seemed capable of only speaking to mio marito at first, until I started asking him direct question about some dishes he was proposing for the summer menu. He is absolutely huge, built like a sumo wrestler, he’ll not be able to do much moving around in our kitchen! He did speak more convincingly than anyone I have seen in the last year who professed to be a cook. Indeed, this man calls himself a chef. His CV does cite several well-recognised hotels and restaurants, but no formal training. Our second cook has worked with him before and says he is a proper chef; this of course means that he will be pushing for high rates of pay. He is also from Naples.

My mother-in-law is still fuming about the fact that the German-Sicilian cook never appeared. We last heard from him when mio marito was away on a boat trip a few weeks ago and he got me on the landline. I told him to stay in touch and let us know if there were any changes to his plans, after he told me he wouldn’t be back until 7 July. I also said we might well have ot start looking for someone else as we didn’t feel reassured that he would show up, given his track record. Is aid this in a light-hearted tone, knowing he only takes mio marito seriously, but I made my point. Anyway, we haven’t heard a bleep form him since, and my mother-in-law is raging. She thinks he tried to take the whole family for a ride, especially her son. The strange thing is that her son was so convinced he was the man, especially since al of us, before he had even arrived, were suspicious, and then when we did finally meet him, felt even more suspicious!

This means, she says, after the catalogue of dodgy people we have had in and out of our kitchen – her kitchen – that she does not trust anyone anymore, and she would usually give anyone the benefit of the doubt. She’s dead right: every single cook who has been interviewed professed to be capable and worth much more than they were – which is always completely clear within a week. Our Napolitano is now pushing for more than we can give him but there is no point in starting on a level beyond our means. He has just left his last place of work because they weren’t paying im – a well-known, well-thought of place! All our staff know that we always pay them on time and are very happy with their working conditions – in fact, at last we have a great time in the kitchen and in the waiting staff – we just need a chef!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shut down at 2am and the Neopolitan Showman

The police came by on Saturday night saying we had to close at 2am. Luckily, a friend from another bar had warned us about this and we had a sign up saying Last Orders at 2am! Usually at 2am it is our busiest time. The bar was packed on Saturday at that time. We said we thought we just had to stop serving drinks, and he said, I’m sorry but the new rule is that the locale must close at 2am. I would be delighted to see us all get to bed a bit earlier except that it had a big impact on our takings for Saturday night. And we need Friday and Saturday night takings to survive as a business! The policeman had two guys form the army with him as backup, and we recognised them as regulars – they looked really sheepish and embarrassed. Apparently there is a new chief of police and he wants to make his presence felt. It will probably die down in a few weeks – it better do for August, which we all depend on for good takings for the rest of the year …

At least the policeman was decent and not throwing his weight around. Apparently he went to all the bars around here.

Meanwhile, Paco, the circus-style entertainer who has played twice for us (Paolo Conte and Viniscio Capossela covers – very good band) showed up with his platinum partner. At 2.30am they wanted to know where to stay. We have never had them back because they cost more than any other band (v. expensive) and also he is very arrogant and gets on everyone’s nerves, requiring personal assistance before, during and after the show. My sister-in-law – our waitress- can’t bear him. So amidst the whole police shutting down confusion, my husband then had to find him somewhere to stay. We reckon he was hoping we would put him up, but even if we had wanted to ( we wouldn’t), my sisters are in the spare room. Unlucky, Paco. He said he had tried various places to no avail, but he obviously hadn’t tried the hotels with their 24 hour reception – too expensive for this scrocconne (scrooge/sponge). So he called our friend who has a B&B and who keeps late hours sometimes. But she was sound asleep. She said no, not wanting the hassle but then, since she was awake, she agreed to wait for them. They got to her at 3.30am and she says they put on a whole show about how they were our great friends and played once a month for us and so could become regular clients of hers. She said he made it sound like they were doing her a favour by giving her business – at 3.30am. She told them breakfast was from 8.30-9.30am and check-out at 10.30am and they rolled their eyes wildly and said but we are only getting here now at 3.30am so can we have breakfast later and check out later? She said no, breakfast is always at that time, but I’ll let you have the room until 11.30am but no later, as my mother will be doing the morning shift and she likes people to stick to the rules. He made a fuss as if this was very inconvenient and he was someone deserving special treatment, and she said, there is a hotel with 24 hour reception just 100metres down the road. Please go there if you prefer. She was getting tired of his Napolitano ways. (She says he was a classic Neopolitan – sorry napolitani). He wasn’t in his room ten minutes when he called her mobile – at 03.40 asking where he could find a bottle of water. Where do you think, at this hour of the night? She replied. I will have to get it for you.

In the morning there was no sign of him at 11.40am so she asked her mother to go and get them out. Anticipating his request for a discount, she said, tell him that the price, €70 is already discounted. Of course the showman tried it on, saying do we not get a discount because we are such good friends with Pachamama and we only arrived at 3.30am??? Imagine. When the gate closed behind them, the platinum partner was heard to whine, ‘Not even in the Sheraton are there such prices!’ My dear, the Sheraton would have charged you a second night for leaving the room late. Our friend said she wouldn’t let them in the door again!

Airport taxi service swindle

My sisters arrived Saturday night in the most stressful circumstances. I was so annoyed that we had no one to pick them up. We would both be working Saturday night so we had to find out about taxi services, since the last bus was at 8.10pm from the airport, and they would not make the last train from Catania to Messina. The agencies all quoted €140. Megabucks. The bus costs €12!

I phoned the agency Garage delle Isole to see if their minibus might be picking up others on Saturday night and the receptionist said no, but she called on Saturday morning propsing €100. In fact it was SHE who called to suggest a taxi for €100. So the girls accepted.

But the girls were delayed getting their baggage, of course we are talking about Catania airport. SO they said the driver was calling them and seemed a bit agitated about the delay. Then half way into the journey I got urgent calls from my sisters. They said the agency had called, three times in Italian and then once in English, a lady telling them they would have to pay more because of the delay. They said that was not mentioned in the agreement and so the lady calmly said she would have the driver leave them at the side of the road. I called the agency to find out what was going on, and the owner was incredibly rude. He had some cock-and-bull story about calling my sister from 6pm to say the car wasn’t available anymore, but how he then managed to find another car – as if to say he was doing us a huge favour. I said I wasn’t interested in how many cars he had; but it was an absurdity to call my sister who was obviously in flight at 6pm, especially when he had my number and I speak Italian and live in Milazzo, whereas my sister, apart from being airborne, speaks only English. Also, had I known at 6pm that they could no longer provide the service, then I could have called another company. This was obviously part of their scheme, even though it makes little sense. He put the phone down.

I called back and he started roaring about how I obviously have no idea, signora, but this trip from Catania airport to Milazzo costs €240 usually. I said well that’s funny because all the other agencies quoted the same price, €140 and I chose you because you offered the lower price on the day and also because my parents had used their minibus service to the airport a few weeks previously without hitches. But i was talking to myself again. The rude man had hung up again!

In the meantime the taxi driver called me and reassured me he would bring the sisters safely to me (they told me after he was doing 150km/hr at times) and I said I would sort things with the agency. He sounded very kind on the phone so I knew I could trust him.

I phoned the agency back and said So are my sisters on their way to me then? And the man (the owner) replied – the taxi driver isn’t answering his phone any more because I have told him to leave the two girls at the side of the road. Comic value comes through now, but at the time I was raging. I said very good, I have the police below my house (they were doing checks on cars), I’ll just send them straight down to you. And I’ll report you tomorrow, and will give you bad press from now on. And what a terrible first impression you have given to two tourists arriving in your country.

So watch out people! This agency, based in Milazzo, is called Garage delle Isole.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

open air discos in the borgo

I left the locale after midnight having been there since 6.30pm for the book launch. Things were quiet enough. But I found our house to be the cross-section for about 4 different bands playing live outdoors, each of them belting out equally atrocious music. The band playing nearest was attempting terrible renditions of and 70s and 80s Italian rock music. I hardly recognised Paolo Conte’s lovely ‘Via Via con me’. The second nearest was a screechy woman trying to perform international rock music – I heard various U2 songs being murdered. The background din was so formidable I couldn’t hear the news on TV, even with the windows shut. Absolute nightmare when you know at 12.15am that this awful din is going to go on until at least 2am. However, I was aware that everything did come to an abrupt halt at around 2am due to a police raid on the nearest and loudest locale; they weren’t there to stop the music apparently, but rather were looking for a Mafioso, stopping punters and asking for documents. The Carabinieri also visited each of the other establishments with the loud music. Glad we stopped music for July. I think people actually come to our place to enjoy the peace, have a good chat and enjoy our lovely white Aeolian style terraces.

Lesbian book launch

Last night Pachamama hosted a book launch: ‘Lesbianism in Nazi-Fascist Europe’. Only our locale could have hosted such an event. The organiser, my Spanish friend, was highly excited when she came, with her projector and images and requests for fun music to lighten the atmosphere. Arci-Gay arrived from Messina laden with posters on safe gay sex and anti-gay and anti-discrimination slogans which he then plastered all over the front of the locale. It reminded me of the early 90s in Ireland, and the 80s in England. but being gay is still a taboo topic in Sicily. But apart from Arci-Gay and the Rita Atria Women’s Anti-Mafia group and a few of the Donne Libere there weren’t too many people. The usual. We had just enough chairs so it was perfect in the privĂ© (sideroom).

I thought all was going well – young Claudia introduced the subject matter and then the two co-authors talked about the difficulty of researching a topic about which there is so much secrecy and censorship. Survivors, they said, were reluctant to talk. But when the writers took questions from the audience, a heated discussion broke out between the president of Arci-Gay and one of the authors. He accused her of not wanting to lobby or promote their cause with right-wing parties, and she defended herself by saying she had worked within Arci-Gay for many years and seen how this approach was fraught with difficulties because Arci-Gay used only certain channels and people in the right-wing parties and it didn’t work for her. The Arci-Gay president, a large man, got out of his seat and went up to the panel and stood right in front of the writer while vehemently putting his point across. This will have seemed intimidating to her as his stance was belligerent and forceful. So she responded on the defensive and this too came across very strongly. At one point she jumped to her feet shouting, ‘Well, if I am going to have to defend myself to the Arci-Gay, I’m leaving!’ The organiser managed to placate her and convince her to stay till the end. Afterwards, the president said he would right a damning review of this skirmish in the local press the next day, which seemed unnecessary and petty. The writer herself was very taken aback and upset, especially since her reasons for not dialoguing with right wing parties are based on previous negative experience of how Arci-Gay operates with the said parties.

My Spanish friend was upset by all of this and said this was a perfect example of why nothing worked in this country and no progress in anything regarding social issues, could ever be made. How can we work on environmental issues, refuse and recycling problem and equality for women in Sicily, if these groups, who ostensibly would appear to have similar agendas, cannot even agree or discuss things in a diplomatic manner? She despaired. She said it was evidence of how in Sicily everyone has their own agendas, people will only participate in an event/meeting if they can promote their own interests; rather than listening and sharing other ideas, they want only to talk over the head of other members of the group to voice their own concerns. There is no concept of working together for the collective group. She reckons this springs from two traits prevalent in Sicilians: protagonismo – each wants to be a protagonist, the main actor on their own stage playing out their own drama; and familismo or amoral familism (a concept coined by American sociologist Edward C. Banfield in his 1958 study ‘The moral Basis of a Backward Society’ based on research he conducted on peasants in Lucania in the South of Italy.) which, in short, translates as looking out for your family only and not caring for the collective good, or improving the world now for the benefit of future generations.

My Spanish friend wanted to have a meeting with mio marito and a friend who has been elected to the town council, today to discuss the recycling and refuse collection problems and women’s issues too with a view to meeting the sindaco (mayor) with a strong agenda; but even our councillor friend was off-putting. He said the new mayor seems open enough at this point to constructive projects, but it had to be remembered that he was mayor for 7 years before in which it became clear that he was heavily influenced by his corrupt brother who had a string of dodgy powerful friends needing favours. He said in local politics here you had to be aware that each and every person had their own personal and political agenda, and that it was never about working together on a project for the general improvement and benefit of society. How depressing.

Our Sunday Aperitivo

Our aperitivo on Sundays is going well, each week there are more people. Although now that the heat has arrived, we reckon people will tend to stay until late at the beach and either come late for the aperitivo or not bother at all. So we’ll have to see how it goes in July. I say we should play it by ear. Have a minimum of food prepared and then if necessary prepare more. Although that could prove difficult if we have to prolong the aperitivo until later as it could clash with customers who wish to have a meal – too much activity for the kitchen. We’ll see.

The locals love it, because our food is so good. When I think back to the aperitivos we used to have in Tuscany, ours is definitely more abundant and better quality of food, all freshly prepared. The whole idea of the aperitivo is that you don’t make money on the food, but rather on the drinks consumed, as people will want to have a second drink to accompany their second round of the dishes. That is how we operated in Tuscany anyway. But here, unfortunately, it is not quite so. Many people seem able to consume large quantities of food without having a second drink and have no qualms about coming in and filling up their plates again! There is one customer in particular, a cousin, who comes and indulges to the max. He actually said last Sunday, I haven’t eaten since breakfast, I was saving myself for this aperitivo. He and his wife fill and refill, but when it comes to paying, it seems to become painful for him. He limps towards the bar and reluctantly takes out his wallet. Now, the aperitivo costs €6, including your drink, and subsequent drinks are their usual price. Can’t do much better than that. But this cousin likes to get preferential treatment, meaning a healthy discount. When he and friends dine, they do get discounts, but it is hard to discount the aperitivo when only a couple of drinks have been consumed. The total was €17 as he did have a second cocktail and while he had a €20 note at the ready, he seemed to be shuffling rather obviously a couple of €10 and €5 notes, perhaps hoping for a discount? Since none was forthcoming, he then wanted a beer to round it off at €20; rather than choosing one that costs €3 (all of them bar three), he specifically requested a €4 one. I said, Well then we can give you a little discount, smiling sweetly. He said, Just as well, because I didn’t have any change! He’s probably annoyed he always gets me on the till rather than mio marito, his cousin, who would probably feel obliged to give him a good discount, even on the aperitivo – which is virtually free!

Busy Wednesday and Mafiosi Cats

Last night was very busy after the mere three tables on Tuesday night. We watched the Spain Portugal World Cup match on Live streaming.

But last night I had told mio marito to rest and I’d call if we needed him. But first the Fortunato Wine family arrived with a party of 9 and sat outside. Then a table of 6 came and sat outside, six women, who then moved because the cats were prowling around – the ginger has given birth to 6 kittens. The tabby cat and another silvery one chase each other on the rails of the gazebo overhead, while the kittens scamper between flowerpots. Our clientele is divided between those who love them and those who don't want them nearby while eating. I would be in the second camp but it is so hard to get rid of them. We have put plastic bottles fo water everywhere - apprently tis serves to keep cats at bay - but today we found a large cat poo right next to one of the bottles on the windowsill - clear marking of territory. Mafioso cats.

Then another table of 5 arrived and sat inside, and a couple who installed themselves on the balcony – these last two tables wanted the birra bionda, which was finished, and the doppio malto which wasn’t working. It always seems to be such a problem when you say there is none. With all the bottled beers we have for God’s sake.

Then another foreign couple and a table of three girls. I got the Fortunatos happy with their orders and the young kids with their piadina and promises of interesting crepes for dessert – the mamma wanted a plain crepe and I said have the original French butter, sugar and lemon juice – and the cousin was surprised to hear they were originally French. Mamma delighted with the possibility.

Then the French couple wanted to know what the risotto was – I struggled to remember gamberi (prawns) in French, knowing it wasn’t like Spanish - gambas or the Italian. Crevettes popped into my head, and courgettes of course. She was pleased. They were from Paris, a sweet little couple exploring the island. They loved the fact that I could speak French. They have struggled to be understood, they said. I can imagine. It can be ahrd to find people who speak Italian here, with all the dialect around, never mind French or English!

The three girls at the next table outside who had some tapas and Garbugli di Venere and scampi had come all the way from Capo D’Orlando. Wonder how they heard about us. Also wonder how the French couple knew to come because they came struggling up the hill all out of breath and sweating when they arrived. The large table of 6 girls wanted 3 tapas di mare and 3 tapas di terra and seemed very happy with them. And the table of 5 who sat inside asked for the paella di pesce but asked could they add chicken to it. I said no, not possible, and they said but we had it before, and I said, I know, laughing, I was very angry when I found out. That is a tourist trick they do in Valencia, but the true Paella is either only fish or only meat. My certitude convinced them and they forgot about wanting to add chicken. They had one of each and were happy with both.