Sicilian cuisine, real art appreciated all over the world. Its origins are ancient and strongly connected to the historical and cultural events of the island. Over the centuries, this particular style has taken on the characteristics that have made it unique, enriching itself with flavors and dishes. The contributions of the peoples who have passed from Sicily are evident: handed down from generation to generation, it represents a source of pride and pride for the Sicilians and an important tourist attraction. Let’s deepen today the history of Sicilian cuisine: it is a way to get to know Sicily and understand its identity more fully.
Sicilian Cuisine History
The first written records of Sicilian cuisine date back to the Greek era. Numerous works by Greek scholars tell the story of the Siceliots and their eating habits. To make Sicilian cuisine famous in the Greek cities was ancient Syracuse. Local cooks were in great demand in Athens, Sparta, and Corinth, as they were considered the most skilled. Sicily, some essential personalities of the culinary world were born, such as Labdaco of Syracuse and Miteco Siculo. They wrote the first cookbook in history, as well as Archestrato of Gela, considered the father of culinary art critics.
The most popular food in Sicilian antiquity was fish. Great importance, then, was the olive tree and the vineyards. Still, the island has always been rich in wheat. The influence of the Roman Empire brought some habits and techniques to Sicily, such as fish farming. The bread was already known since the times of the Greeks but took on new forms over the centuries. In particular, it was cooked on the brazier and then dipped in wine sweetened with honey.
The Arabs and the Normans
The Arabs brought a great revolution to Sicilian cuisine. They brought ancient crops, such as oranges and lemons (to name two). Again, they introduced sugar cane, rice, and various recipes and preparations. They were the first to distill liqueurs. Also, in this period, the Sicilian pasta production technique continued to be refined. In history, the first sea and mountain dish was born in Syracuse: an Arab cook, to feed the army, decided to prepare them a dish consisting of pasta with sardines, mixed with wild fennel and pine nuts.
Jewish communities also left their mark on Sicilian cuisine. It was they who introduced the custom of kashrut, or of eating correctly. They are responsible for introducing garlic fried with olive oil in the sauce. The Normans, coming from Northern Europe, brought the gastronomy of the game. There are also French influences in Sicilian cuisine, such as onion instead of garlic for sauces or more pleasing sauces or shortcrust pastry. The Aragonese introduced fried preparations in the 13th century. From trade with China and India, on the other hand, came the aubergines. The Spaniards reached the sponge cake while, after the colonization of the Americas, tomatoes, cocoa, corn, and other products arrived.
The modern era
The eighteenth-century fashion of having monsù (professional cooks) spread among the islanders in monarchical France. The two Sicilian gastronomic cultures, the baronial one and the popular one, met thanks to these monsù. The nobles almost always had women in charge of cleaning the house and cooking. Monsu’ lived on the basement floor reserved for the ordinary servants, but in the same palace as the nobles.
The cooks monsù and the commoners often met in the kitchen, following their masters’ directions, who frequently asked to mix the rich cuisine’s flavors with those of the poor. Still, more traditional cuisine that is authentic of Sicily.
In 1800 the Sicilian tuna traps saw the maximum expansion, then they fell into disuse, and the tuna fishing had a notable decrease. In the Bourbon era, Sicilian cuisine already had an apparent identity. However, Neapolitans and Sicilians have had many connections in the culinary field: at that time. Naples had already invented the pizza Margherita which soon reached Sicily. With the unity of Italy, then, the customs of the North arrived on the island. Decade after decade, we have come to Sicilian cuisine as we know it today: a remarkable concentration of wisdom and taste. The classic traditional recipes are still appreciated, and in great demand, as is street food, a delicacy is known worldwide.