The Sicilian Legacy       

   

Whether you are visiting us to pick up a recipe for tonight’s meal or to pass time immersing yourself in the old-world stories of life in Sicily, we hope that you will find what you are looking for. We welcome you to discover new information about the island, the history of its inhabitants and aspects of and their lifestyle to better understand the Sicilians. 

  

 

  

The Island of the Sicani and Siculi 


This small island, only a few square miles larger than the state of Vermont, was originally populated by the Sicani and the Siculi. In the Bronze Age, the Elymians invaded the west of the island, and since then, there has been a constant shifting of power from one ruler to another.

 

Sicily was occupied for the beauty of the landscape, the richness of the soil, the beautiful climate and the strategic position in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. 

  

 

The Bridge to the World 


All the ancient civilizations became great when their expansion included Sicily! This is true for the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Saracens. 


The Greeks, who introduced modern agricultural techniques, colonized Sicily, made it their second country and renamed it Megale’ Hellas, meaning Great Greece. The Romans translated the name into Latin and the island became Magna Grecia.

 

All of Sicily’s conquerors abused the abundant resources of the island, and it was inevitable that they would exhaust the soil due to overuse.
The Normans, the Svevi from Schwabenland, the French, Germans, Spaniards, Savoia, Austrians and again the Spanish conquered and dominated Sicily. Some of the occupiers made a positive contribution to Sicilian society while some created resentment for the way they tried to govern the lives of the inhabitants.  


But those realities produced what Sicily is today: a paradise for art lovers and a desirable destination for the discriminating tourist. 

  

 

  

Sicilian Cooking 

  

 

A very important aspect of this versatile island is the field of cooking. On this subject, Archestratus, originally from Gela, wrote a cookbook in the fourth century B.C.
The reputation held by the Sicilians in the art of preparing and cooking food is unquestionable and goes back in time. The Roman proverb “siculus coquus et sicula mensa,” meaning “Sicilian cook and Sicilian provisions,” illustrates well the admiration they had for the island’s cookery. 


The most important meal is consumed “per il pranzo,” when every day, as a ritual, the family joins together. 

  

  

The Family 


The family was and is the most important nucleus in Sicilian society.  


Family is the foundation where individuals could find real protection from the outside world, at times bellicose and antagonistic. The father was in charge of providing for the family’s needs, but it was the mother who, as in the Judaic tradition, was responsible for keeping the family united, caring for the children’s education, taking charge of the kitchen for food preparation and stocking up on provisions. The mother had learned from her mother the recipes that after thousands of years have been passed on and still used in today’s Sicilian cooking. 

  

  

The Recipes and their Sources 


Relatives, friends and people we have met in our visits to Sicily have all given us old recipes that were very successfully tested in our family business, the Focacceria on Avenue “U” in Brooklyn, NY. 


We will propose to you those and other recipes reflecting the local traditional way of cooking: simple ways to cook fish and vegetables that will enhance their taste as well as recipes of pasta, meat and other specialties, some reminding you of your mother’s or grandmother’s cooking.  


Finally we will show you how to make easy Sicilian desserts, some very old-fashioned, some with a pagan or Saracen legacy and others more contemporary.

 

We hope you will enjoy this collection of recipes with their anecdotes, and we trust that their execution will be a source of enjoyment for you and your family.