Sicilian sea urchins

We were at My sister-in-law’s in Sciacca, on Sicily’s south coast, last summer when a friend turned up in swimming trunks, carrying a bucket. He had just come back from the beach with a ridiculously large quantity of sea urchins. Several bucketfulls, in fact. So he decided to give a bucket of them to us….

Yes I speaking the English

I dropped in on an old friend, Mr. Cake, in his place of work recently. He owns and runs a cafe bar with his brother, which is always mouth-wateringly stocked with seasonal Sicilian pastries and delicacies, mainly baked by their elderly dad. As you can imagine, I enjoy dropping in on them very much. Since…

The History of Sicilian Cuisine in Thirteen Invasions

Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine, a unique mix of all of its diverse cultural heritages. The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian housewife’s kitchen cupboard. The Phoenicians The Phoenicians were traders and…

Do you only eat fruit in season, or forced in greenhouses?

Whilst scoffing mango and strawberries with my nephew the other day, I found myself thinking of my friends in Sicily with pity. This is the season when they have pretty much no fruit, you see. Oranges fizzle out in February, and then there’s basically nothing till May. Fruit and veg in season The idea of only…

Daily Life in a Sicilian Fishing Village

The fishermen in my village usually go out in these boats.     Each village along the coastline has its own particular colour scheme. Our village uses orange, white and blue, but there are some fishermen who originally came from another village along the coast where they use green instead of blue.     I always…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: part 3, The Romans

The last, and ultimately the most powerful, of the superpowers of the ancient world was the Roman Empire. Why were they ultimately the winners in the power struggle? We have seen decades of power struggle between the USA and the USSR. They fought the cold war using technology and financing small wars around the globe,…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 2, The Greeks

On Wednesday I told you about the Phoenicians, the first Super-power of the ancient world and Sicily’s first colonists. Today, let’s see what the Greeks did for Sicily. The ancient Greeks: the second superpower The Greeks copied the Phoenicians by founding coastal colonies all over the Mediterranean from the 8th century B.C. onwards. We call…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians

It may be hard to imagine, these days, that Sicily was once the cradle of European civilisation. Three super-powers battled for supremacy and Sicily was the centre of it all. Today, I’ll tell you about the Phoenicians, the earliest super-power and Sicily’s first colonists. Carthaginians and Phoenicians: the first empire The Phoenicians were the first…

Francu, King of the Watermelons

A watermelon stall in Bagheria. That yellow sign, written hilariously in Sicilian, says: “Only one person in Bagheria sells watermelons which are red and sweet. They call him Francu, King of the watermelons.”    

The Tentacles of Doom

Foreigners think English food is awful, and I know why. It’s because they don’t know how to eat it. I served a roast dinner to my outlaws at Christmas a few years ago. They took some potatoes, which sat all lonely and solitary in the middle of their plates. After eating them in dry, disappointed…

Q: Who promoted Italian food before Jamie Oliver? A: Renato Guttuso!

  We are all used to buying imported and exotic foods in our local supermarket these days, and seeing Jamie Oliver on TV wagging spaghetti about and telling us to grow “some lavly fresh basil” on our windowsills. Jamie has become the global marketing manager for Italian food these days. But how would you market…

Happy Easter!

Last week a friend’s little boy was eagerly – indeed passionately – telling me about what he called “the Jewish Easter”. When I realised he meant Passover, it suddenly struck me that the Italian word for Easter – Pasqua – is derived from Pesach, Hebrew for Passover. He had learned about the Jewish flight from…

Christmas in Sicily with Santa’s Smallest Elf

We celebrated Christmas this year with roughly forty people. I could not count accurately as they were Sicilian, therefore unable to keep still. There were four different pasta courses. One was spaghetti with olive oil, lemon zest and cheese, served in a bowl carved out of a whole Parmesan cheese. Another pasta course was with…

The Celebrity Chefs of Palermo – They’re Offal!

Do you eat offal? is it forbidden by your religion? Or do you just think it tastes like poop? In Palermo, fast food sold in the streets is almost all made of offal. One of the absolute classic dishes of Palermo is U pani ca meusa, which means, “bread with spleen”. I ususally give this…

About Jews, Greek Philosophers and Offal sandwiches

Q. What do Socrates and a spleen sandwich have in common? A. Read on to find out! There was already a significant Jewish population here in Sicily by the 5th century BC. They came with the Greeks from Athens, which also had a large Jewish community. Since the Jews influenced Greek culture a great deal…

The Mediterranean Diet – how to do it properly

All over the world, there exists the myth of a “Healthy Mediterranean Diet,” which everyone is urged to emulate for the sake of their arteries. The Mayo Clinic (which always makes me think of Mayonnaise, anyone else?) says on its website: “Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option” A cursory search on the Internet will…

What have the Africans done for Sicily?

Africans are so often portrayed as the underdogs, nowadays, that we sometimes forget they conquered southern Europe twice and ruled it for centuries. The Sicilians don’t forget, though, for the Africans invented pasta as we know it, shaped their language and gave them the word Mafia, and brought them their citrus fruit trees, taught them…

In Praise of America!

1492 was a great year for food. That was the year Native Americans discovered Christopher Columbus lost at sea. They fed him, made him wash his armpits, and gave him tomatoes. He eventually limped off home with the juicy red loot. At last, people all over Italy smacked their taste buds in delight. They named…