Cannoli are made of tube-shaped fried pastry dough stuffed with a cream made of sweetened sheep ricotta. Then candied fruit or chocolate chips are added and the pastries are finished with a dusting of icing sugar. Delicious!
We celebrate the holidays without knowing why, worrying about buying gifts, organizing trips to get away and preparing feasts for lunches and dinners. Who knows how many of us will taste Cuccia, savor Buccellato, eat a Sfincia for Saint Joseph or delight in some almond dough fruit and still remember why these typical “treats of the Saints” were created and how they sailed through the centuries to get to us. Each preparation is linked to events and rites that sink into our oldest past and tell us about needs, survival and spirituality that it would be better not to forget nowadays.
On Saint Lucia’s day, which would like the fast of the devotees, the heretic is one who does not eat the famous arancina. Or rather those who do not make a real feast of rice balls. This day you can smell fried in the air. You can hear it coming out of the takeaways, but also from the houses of those who prepare the symbol of this party at home. The arancina at Saint Lucia’s day can be compared to the dove at Easter or the panettone at Christmas.
Easter is one of the most important religious event and combines the main moments of Passion, Death and Risen of Christ to the folk rituals, sometimes through dramatic and theatrical forms of expression often in structured and complex way, symbol of total renovation. What is most impressive of Easter in Sicily is the active participation of many people that express itself not only with the classical procession and pilgrimages, but also with the alternation of sad feelings for the Death of Christ and those cheerful and joyful for his Risen. During the Holy Week the historic center of Palermo comes alive with spectacular processions of the painful drama of the dead Christ.
Beautiful plant with fragrant fruit that produces a rich, flavorful nectar that tastes of velvet and apricot, malvasia was also called “Gods’ nectar”. Its grape is imported by the first Greek colonists around 588 BC into the island of Salina, where the well ventilated soil of volcanic origin is placed at three hundred meters above the sea level. Its name comes from the port of Monemvasia in the Peloponnese, a promontory of great importance on the commercial routes between East and West, which was long fought over in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the Turks and Venetians.
The cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale near Palermo, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Etna, the Villa Romana del Casale, the baroque towns of Val di Noto, the Aeolian Islands, Siracusa and the rock-cut Necropolis of Pantalica, as wells as the Mediterranean diet and the Opera dei Pupi, have all been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, making Sicily itself World Heritage Site.
The relationship between man and food is one of the oldest bond, consider it not only as a physiological need but also as a sensory path of recognition and affirmation of his own cultural identity: it is true that “man is what he eats”, but it is even more true that he eats what he is: food completely rich in culture. European Capital of Street Food and fifth in the world in the Forbes list, Palermo had recently hosted the first International Festival of Street food. Among stalls and street sellers of pani ca’ meusa (bread dressed with spleen and ricotta cheese), arancine (fried rice balls), panelle and croquettes, it could happen to come across other specialties of the local area.
“A San Martino ogni mustu è vinu” (On St. Martin every must is wine)
On November 11th, when in Italy it’s celebrated the maturation of the new wine, is also remembered as St. Martin’s Day, patron saint of travelers and pilgrims. According to the legend, in the harsh winter of 335, Martin, bishop of Tours, met a naked wayfarer suffering with cold, and decided to donate half of his cloak to the poor old man. Immediately the sun began to warm as in summer. For this reason, this period is also called St. Martin’s Summer, when it happens that the temperature is quite mild.
Best known in Italian with the name of marzipan, the recipe of these sweets, dating back to the fourteenth century, is actually of Arab origin.
The “marzaban” was a wooden box which was used for various purposes, including preserving correspondence, important documents and more frequently used to send cakes prepared with flour, almond paste and other ingredients, which soon took the name of marzipan.
Summer is almost ending but time to talk about Sicilian sweets is never enough!
Some claim that the origins of this dessert are Albanians, led by Arberesch who settled in Sicily where they still reside, maintaining their own customs and traditions. There are those who are more inclined to believe that this delicacy dates back to the time of Arab rule in Sicily, for chocolate flavors, pistachio, jasmine and cinnamon.