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Do you want to study the history of Sicily? Put yourself at the table and start tasting our traditional dishes!
The Myth has a place of honor in the history of nutrition. When the Athenians had to choose who to dedicate a temple to on the Acropolis, they decided that the honor would be given to the god who had brought the most precious good for the whole city: Atena won, from the earth he planted an olive plant, symbol of peace and wealth.
The olives extract oil, the basis of Mediterranean cuisine, but also balm to soothe wounds and burns, an excellent remedy for rubbing eczema and excoriation, as well as an excellent laxative; in practice a true panacea.
Homer, to indicate civilian peoples (distinguishing them from the barbarians), called them "Those who eat bread ..." According to the University of Naucrati, seventy-two types of bread were produced in Athens, while in Selinunte, in its heyday, they were produced only fourteen. And there is no food that compares with a slice of warm oven bread, with a little olive oil on top.
In the pages of Homer and in his Odyssey we find many traces of these stories and already the gastronomy became a characteristic trait, almost a "souvenir" to carry around (as Gaetano Basile often tells in his raids between history and cuisine). Ulysses, for one thing, discovers pecorino in Polifemo's cave.
It was the Greeks, Phoenicians or Mycenaeans who pressed the grapes in those sandstone basins, connected with a hole to a lower basin, the oldest Sicilian wines were born in front of the Aeolian Islands and the inhabitants of those areas did not have to pray. to try the pleasant intoxications.
In private and among them, the Greek women of Sicily were allowed to drink wine, which was considered unbecoming for the Roman ladies of a good family.
With the pleasures of the table and the joy of a glass of wine, the first "gastronomy experts" in history see the light, and if food critics are a plague, the plague is ancient and ached even then.
However, the gastronomic literature of those distant times makes a real leap forward with Archestrato di Gela, who lived around the middle of the third century BC, a true connoisseur, seduced by the mussels of Messina, a passionate admirer of the Mileto sea bass and of the tuna caught in Solunto. Even the tuna recommended the meat of females, more tender and tasty.
Is it for this reason that the Sicilians still eat "tunnina" today?
The kitchen offered by Archestrato is simple and genuine, absolutely devoid of sophistry. He loves the natural flavors of food, enjoyed in their arcane and irreplaceable goodness, his dishes do not require laborious preparation or greasy concoctions. Its fish, roasted or boiled, only wants a side dish of aromatic herbs that enhance its flavor.
And if in Sicily food and wine reached very high peaks, Plato did not allow himself to be corrupted by similar weaknesses.
In his ideal Syracuse he had established very strict food criteria: salt, olives, cheese, onions and vegetables, to finish the meal we will serve him figs, chickpeas and broad beans, we will roast myrtle berries and chestnuts on brace which they will crunch by drinking wine in moderation.
In Roman times Sicily became the "granary of Rome"
Even the bakers worked hard to make some changes in the shapes of the loaves and the most sought after were prepared with wheat flour and then sprinkled with poppy, cumin or sesame seeds. A real delicacy was the bread baked on the brazier and then soaked in the honeyed wine.
Sicilian wines such as Potulanum, Mamertinum and Tauromenitanum, so appreciated as to be exported to every corner of the empire.
It was the Muslims who introduced us to the zibibbo, a vine that came from beyond the sea, from Cap Zebib, in Tunisia.
From risotto with arancina, the very precious rice, which the Greeks knew as "oryza" that delicious golden nugget that is our arancina: feminine, because "small orange".
The Arabs, true masters of the milling art, created the durum wheat semolina introduced in Sicily and the base of the famous couscous, the main food of their diet.
Around 900, in Trabia, near Palermo, the first plant for the production of "ytria" was implanted, the spaghetti, in Arabic, from which the name of the village is also derived, and "tria" was called in Sicilian.
To the cook of an Arab general, Eufemio, the invention of what is one of the most famous Sicilian dishes: pasta with sardines. In the intentions of that good man, it was a matter of feeding the troops, attested around Syracuse, with a single and substantial dish. The wild fennels were used to dampen the stench of sardines not really fresh, and against food poisoning they put the pine nuts known as an antidote in folk medicine.
Sicily knew the sweetness of cane sugar. We had only used honey up until then, so we called that cane "cannamiele". Sugar, mixed with sheep's milk ricotta, was the basis of today's cassata, a curious name born from a misunderstanding: "quas'at" was called the copper pan where ricotta was mixed and certainly not the content. Perhaps nothing is true and instead we want the name to come from the Latin "caseatus", that is a cake made with the cheese of sheep, which is precisely ricotta.
Sicilian cassata is a symphony of flavors, an ephemeral work of art created to nourish the body, but also the spirit. It is a piece of Sicily offered to the eyes and the soul: an image of voluptuousness: eat a slice and you will have in your mouth a piece of history of this island.
One of the most famous dishes of Sicilian cuisine was created created by the Jews of Palermo: bread with a spleen! "U pani ca 'meusa" is also a typical example of Italian gastronomic tradition in the field of so-called "street food", precursor of today's fast food!
The origin dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Jews of Palermo, engaged in slaughtering meat, unable, by their own religious belief, to receive money for their work, retained as a reward the entrails that they cooked as a filling for the sandwich.
By Marco M. Teresa - Ferré M. Cécile, Sicilian Cuisine, Guido Tommasi Editore-Datanova, 2010
Gaetano Basile and Anna Maria Dominici, Festive Eating, Kalòs 2004
Gaetano Basile Sicily, the island that there is Dario Flaccovio Editore 2001
Al Idrisi, Il Libro di Ruggero, Flaccovio Edizioni 2009