In my view Sicilian/Italian food evolution provided the basis for the foundation of European cookery. Dating as far before the Roman Empire Sicily and then
achievements in creative cooking ideas existed long before that of .
I can’t take anything away from French cuisine because it is world renowned and
rightly so. It has taken on its own characteristic style and did grow to some
degree from Sicilian/Italian influence. France
As one can point out the French style of cooking relates more to the northern part of
than it does to the southern peninsular. The south of Italy Italy has for the past few hundred years been
seen as the poor part of .
People there live on seasonal foods that are gathered fresh and are extremely
natural. It was once the food garden for Italy Italy
The crops that grow in this soil have no parallel. The quality of the vegetables gives a clue to the dishes of
. Since their
vegetables are of superior taste and quality, no Sicilian would defile them by
creating complex dishes that mask the fresh flavour of their ingredients.
Simplicity allows the pure taste of the vegetables to come through when they
are eaten. This is a key attitude to cooking which is prevalent all over Sicily . Sicily
When the Greeks saw the
, they fell in love, sent their
fleets, and set up colonies. The Romans saw what the Greeks had, fought
them for it, and became the new conquerors. The Arabs saw what the Romans
had, fought them for it, and put the island under their dominion. From
the north came the Normans, the Angevins, Hapsburgs and Bourbons, and when they
saw island of Sicily ,
they too, went to war, and conquered. Sicily
Every time the island was conquered the new owners brought styles and ways of cooking that have shaped the cuisine that has evolved on the
Island. The Greeks
were colonisers, not conquerors, and they brought with them their more
developed agricultural methods, their culture, and a mythology that would
tangle with and incorporate .
By the fifth century, the Greek city of Sicily Siracusa
on the eastern shores of Sicily, and central
to the trade routes, was the richest, and most powerful of all Greek cities,
including those in
After three centuries of Greek dominance, the Romans wanted to have
as a province. Roman power was felt in North Africa and the entire Sicily Mediterranean, and after the Punic Wars they succeeded in
dominating the island.
was just a province, though, and the Romans plundered the island, destroying
forests and planting durum wheat, a crop that prospered in Sicilian climatic
conditions. The island became known as the granary of Sicily ; the soil was depleted from overuse. The
Romans did not influence Sicilian cooking; their cooking was influenced by Rome . Sicily
After the Romans came the Vandals, Ostrogoths and Byzantines. Following them came the Arabs also called Saracens in the early centuries. It was the Arab influence on Sicilian cooking that became the most important, and that has endured to this day. The Greeks colonized and taught methods of farming, the Romans used
as their breadbasket, but it was the Arabs, conquering in 831, who brought food
traditions that affected Sicilian cooking. They introduced sophisticated
methods of irrigation that made vegetable farming possible, they introduced the
eggplant, oranges and lemons. Sicily
The capitol of the Arab world at the time was
The splendor of Palermo Palermo was said to rival that
of ancient .
Baghdad Sicily and were at this time main areas
of communication between east and west. Because the Jewish peoples were able to
move freely between eastern and western languages and thinking, the Jewish
population flourished in Spain ,
side by side with the increasingly large Christian population. Christian, Arab
and Jew lived in harmony. Sicily
The most important Arab import to the
Island was pasta. It probably was the
Arabs who invented pasta. The Arab use of spices and dried fruit, in particular
raisins, left an indelible mark on Sicilian cooking. They also brought
cous-cous, known in
as 'cuscusu'. Couscous is made of tiny balls of flour and water which are left
to dry in the sun, then steamed over a boiling pan of water. The Arabs would
use lamb, possibly chicken, to accompany the couscous. With the abundance of
fish, this changed, and a classic Sicilian dish is couscous cooked with the
broth of the local fish to give it a seafood flavor. The Arabs also brought
rice dishes, though rice was considered the food of the sick. Despite this
has its one classic rice dish - arancini, little round balls of rice with meat
in its center, or of rice with cheese at its center. Sicily
The Arabs also brought a sweet tooth that would lead to the development of Sicilian baked goods and cookies of every type, cakes and sherbets. During Greek and Roman reign, honey had been the sweetener, but the Arabs brought sugar cane and the first rudimentary sugar refinery was established in Trappeto. The Sicilians took to this sweet marvel, and their pastries are today famous throughout
and the World. Italy
The Arabs ruled
for two centuries. In that time, the
church had developed into the greatest political force in Sicily Europe,
wielding more power than any government. The pope in , not liking the rule of infidels,
encouraged French Normands to attack. Several hundred knights from Rome Normandy, Lombardy, and southern Italy set on the Arabs in . Once again, the fortunes of the
island changed. Christianity was restored; the Norman court gave birth to the
Italian language; commerce flourished. The Normands added little to cooking
methods, however, and their major food imprint was salt cod, called stoccafisso by the Sicilians. Not a
profound legacy. Sicily
In the following centuries Sicily would be a pawn, as well as a provincial prize, and would be commanded by the Angevins, the Aragonese, the Spanish Hapsburgs, the Austrian Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, even the British Administration who sent troops to occupy Sicily in the Napoleonic wars.
would occupy the island, and in 1492 when Columbus
was sent on a voyage of discovery, Spain
expelled the Jews from both Spain
ending the harmonious coexistence of religion on the island. Sicily Spain shifted her attention away from the
Mediterranean with the discovery of the New World, leaving to her own meager devices. The
Inquisition brought an end to religious tolerance. Through these centuries, Sicily would also endure
earthquakes and the Black Plague, debilitating the island and its population
even more. Sicily
In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi landed with his troops and speaking for Italian unity, drove the Spanish out of
. Sicily 's fortunes
declined even further, and there was great unrest. After two decades of
poverty, the Sicilians began to emigrate in large numbers, hoping to better
their lives in Sicily .
During World War I an unfair conscription policy was set in place,more young
men were drafted from America Sicily than from
The Italy New World offered hope.
We have seen that the Arab influence on Sicilian cooking was the most profound. That legacy continues today in ways that make Sicilian cooking inimitable. Encouraged by the nomadic Arabs, as well as by the demands of the natural terrain, Sicilians raised primarily sheep and goats. The flocks provide the milk for caciocavallo, provolo and pecorino cheeses. The whey left over is used to make ricotta, and Sicilians swear that only sheep's milk ricotta gives the right flavor to their desserts.
Food Fusion New Zealand
With the poor nature of the Island in the late 1800’s there was a huge exodus of people to
America and other countries including Australia and and with them they
brought their rich history of cooking. Many of the original methods and recipes
have changed over time but the passion for food and taste still exists. Much of
the cooking was subsumed by Neapolitan cooking. New Zealand
The Neapolitans were the first great wave of Italians who reached other shores, arriving in great numbers in the years from 1880. The first thing they did was to establish food markets which would provide for the foods they loved. Some of the more exotic Arab influences were lost. Saffron was prohibitively expensive in the west and fell away from Sicilian cooking.
Today there is renewed interest in all things Sicilian/Italian when it comes to food and wine. Their cooking style has started to flourish again all over the world. Sicilian cooking was localised on the Island, changing from village to village and with this renewed interest in things Sicilian and their way of adapting cooking to a regional basis we are seeing Sicilian style cooking growing and evolving from country to country.
My cooking style has been hugely influenced by my Sicilian heritage. Fresh seasonal foods cooked in a way that they take on added flavours but also retain their own taste and structure is the food that I eat.
Sicilian foods can be very simple to prepare and cook or you can make it where ever you want by putting a bit more time into preparation and cooking.
Cacciatore Style (Hunters Style)
Slow cookers work so well with Sicilian cooking. Hunters and Shepard’s in
mastered the art
of ‘One Pot Cooking’, Cacciatore Style (Hunters Style) and this can be adapted
to slow cookers with easy and with very tasty results with little effort. Even
if you are on the side of a hill why should your food not taste great? Sicily