A wonderfully fertile land offering a wealth of produce; the sea, with its unique variety of fish: these are the two inseparable elements which go to make up Sicilian cuisine. It is therefore essentially an agricultural and maritime cuisine, often simple but always genuine, with a thousand different nuances. The centuries of domination of the island by various populations have also enriched the range of typical local dishes with new ingredients and usual flavours.
In the town or in the country, in the humblest cottages or in numerous villas and castles that testify to the island's noble architectural heritage, the dishes prepared are in no way inferior to the most international gastronomic masterpieces. Sicilian civilisation is unique and has preserved its particular features over the years. Its various aspect find full expression in the local cuisine, where the preparation of food becomes a launching pad for the imagination and the innate elegance that is such an essential part of the islanders' extremely rich historical and cultural heritage. Conviviality is perhaps more widespread here than anywhere else in the world. It is no coincidence that pasta was born in Sicily along with sweet and sour sauces, cassata, stuffed meats and a wide variety of stewed vegetables. Not to mention the wide range of delicacies imported from the Middle East and Spain, with their hints of myth, legend, religion, aristocratic beauty and poetry.
All these elements combine to draw people together, to create occasions for lively parties.
Sicilian wines deserves a separate mention. The luxuriant Sicilian vineyards offer a wide choice. They were praised by Pliny and over the centuries their strength and flavour have come to be appreciated by connoisseurs all over the world. The main motif of Sicilian cuisine is, as we have seen, tradition, genuine ingredients, and simplicity - a heritage dictated by the very essence of the Sicilian character, a treasure to be protected and preserved.
(from "The Ancient Art of Cooking", by Eleonora Consoli)
... It was the colour that struck me first. The colour of darkness. A heap of cubes of that unmistakeably luminescent dark, dark purple-reddish golden richness, glimmering from a baroque canvas, that comes from eggplants, black olives, tomato and olive oil densely cooked together, long and gently. The colour of southern Italian cooking. Caponata was one of the world's great sweet and sour dishes, sweet sour and savoury. The eggplant was the heart of caponata. The celery hearts were the most striking component: essential and surprising. …"
(from "Midnight in Sicily" by Peter Robb, 1998)
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