Europe Hotels Articles

August 9, 2010

The characteristics of Sicilian food

The island of Sicily is world famous for its foods, and rightly so. While this troubled region may fall behind the rest of Europe in terms of economy, societal structure and political stability, there is no denying the fact that here, wedged between Africa and the Western world, is to be found some of the finest food ever tasted.

This is largely to do with Sicily’s geographical location and climate. The long hot summers and rainy winters are perfect for the growth of a diverse range of produce. Sicily’s fertile hills are probably one of the only places in the world where one can find potatoes and persimmon growing side by side. Everything grows here, meaning that a wide range of good quality, fresh produce is constantly available to everyone at half the price paid in much of mainland Europe.

In addition, much of inland Sicily is mountainous and uninhabitable, and this land is widely used for the raising of livestock, ensuring a constant supply of excellent meat. And then there is the sea, which gives endless offerings of exotic creatures with which the Sicilians adorn their plates.

Sicily, it must be remembered, is a somewhat reluctant member of the Republic of Italy, and has, over the centuries, been claimed as a part of various other empires. It has spent time under Phonoecian, Spanish and Greek rule and was even colonised by the Normans at one point. Sicily is, in many ways, more Arabian than European, an understandable characteristic considering its proximity to North Africa.

These various cultural influences have played a large role in shaping the Sicilian menu. Pasta and pizza still have their place at the table here, but the sauces and toppings that they are served with are much more reflective of the island’s history. In addition to these Italian favourites, cous-cous dishes are widely prevalent and rice is more prominent here than elsewhere in Italy.

Good quality ingredients and a wide range of inspiration go a long way to explaining why Sicily’s food is so special, but the main reason for this phenomenon is the Siciliani themselves. You will struggle to find another place in the world where such a strong belief in the importance of good food is so ingrained into the regional character.

Sicilians love food. They love cooking food, they love eating food, and above all they love sharing food. Invite any Sicilian to a party and within half an hour of arrival, they’ll be in the kitchen whipping up plates of spaghetti with garlic and oil for everyone.

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