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Sicily and Southern Italy

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Mediterranean Cuisine and Culture
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Sicily and Southern Italy
Dorotea Djurovic
Institute of Tourism Studies
Written Assignment
SICILY AND SOUTHERN ITALY ASSIGNMENT
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Table of Contents
Abstract ............................................................................................................................... 3
Sicily and Southern Italy ............................................................................................... 4
Risotto ai Frutti di Mare ...................................................................................................... 5
Traditional ingredients .................................................................................................... 6
Utensils and equipment ............................................................................................... 7
References ........................................................................................................................... 9
SICILY AND SOUTHERN ITALY ASSIGNMENT
Abstract
In this research the main topic will be the cuisine of Sicily and Southern Italy, focusing
on traditional dishes, ingredients, utensils and equipment. The research is divided into five main
sectors which will explain the heritage and background of this particular region of the
Mediterranean area.
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SICILY AND SOUTHERN ITALY ASSIGNMENT
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Sicily and Southern Italy
Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, right underneath the Italian Peninsula
and north of Malta, Sicily is with 25,000km2 the largest island in this area. Combined with its
smaller islands it is marked as an independent region of Italy since 1946. It is split into nine
provinces and has a population of 5 million people. Sicily and Southern Italy have like most of
the 48 regions in the Mediterranean a massive range of traditions, various historical events and
with it, of course, culinary history.
In the past 2000 years almost every Mediterranean nation came across this beautiful
island and left behind its marks, but in the end, the most significant influence on its cuisine had
the one thing that surrounds it: the sea. It is all about creating beautiful and delicious dishes from
simple and local products.
Its capital city Palermo was founded in the 8th century B.C. by Phoenician sailors (which
would be nowadays mainly Lebanon and parts of other Arabic countries). As there was a huge
marina, other nations were able to introduce their products to the island. The Phoenicians
brought citruses and almonds, the Greek olives and the Spanish introduced the tomatoes. As the
soil is full of minerals and nutrients and the sun never stops smiling, the Sicilian had a great
fundamental to grow their unique flavoured fruits and vegetables. Combining their local choice
of ingredients, traditional cooking skills and the love for food, Sicily is stealing the hearts of
tourists visiting from all over the world.
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Risotto ai Frutti di Mare
One of the most famous Sicilian dishes is risotto ai Frutti di Mare.The reason for
choosing this dish is that it contains historical and geographical vital ingredients, including
seafood and rice. Seafood was from the beginning of time an essential part of the Sicilian diet,
other than the rice which was imported most probably in the middle ages by monks. Rice was
first used for medical treatments and as a thickening agent. The most significant development of
rice happened during the 19th century. As most households had not enough food for the whole
family, women went every morning for the rice harvest where they were disregarding all weather
conditions forced to harvest as much as they could gain that day and take home. Slowly with this
tradition, the culture of eating rice became an essential part of the Sicilian diet. At that time, the
only rice cultivated in Italy was nostrale. With the mixture of different kinds of rice brought
mostly from China, new grains of rice were introduced, including the today most popular:
Carnaroli. Carnaroli is a round and creamy rice, which can be prepared with various ingredients
and prepared as the risotto as we know it today. Risotto ai Frutti di mare was a dish for peasant
people and shared on the dinner table for the whole family. Today it is still served mostly for
dinner; not as a main course as it is known in other parts of Europe but as a primo (starter after
the antipasto).Similar dishes are developed over the years also in other Mediterranean counties.
The two which came out from this research as the most similar are from Spain and Greece. The
name of the Spanish one is Paella and the Greek Midopilafo paradosiako. What all three have in
common is the base of rice and the mixture of local seafood used to produce that dish. All three
meals have a specific taste which makes them easy to tell apart from each other and others in the
Mediterranean area.
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Traditional ingredients
Like noted earlier in this text, Sicily was occupied by many nations. Nations which left
after them their culture of food and beverages. The outcome of this, in combination with the
weather and soil fecundity, is a result of a vast variety of local ingredients. Through history, the
ingredients used by peasant people became more popular, and a "trademark" of Sicily as a lot of
people were living a frugal life. A range of local vegetables is used on a daily basis, as it is with
aubergines. Most people could not afford to use meats and fishes as the main ingredient for
dishes, so aubergines stayed even nowadays as the main ingredient for a lot of recipes. As the
Sicilian and southern Italian are very traditional and proud of their heritage, every household is
serving local fresh pasta (various shapes and filling are available), rice dishes (as risotto, arancini
and baked rice) and specific sweets made out of local cheeses (cassata siciliana, cassatelle,
cannoli and minne di sant agata). Local cheeses are found all around this area, including
pecorino siciliano and the most popular ricotta cheese. There are many others specific for the
region including canestrato, caciocavallo, piacentinu and provola. Thanks to the Greek kitchen,
seafood and fish combined with olive oil (like most Italian dishes) are part of everyone's daily
diet. The list of most popular ingredients may not be the same for every person, but the ones
mentioned before and others like salamis, tomatoes, garlic, onions, grapes and citruses are the
most heavily used in this area.
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Utensils and equipment
Being part of Italy, Sicily and southern Italy follow the same cooking skills and
equipment traditions like the whole country. Specific for Italy is the wood fire oven on which the
most authentic and flavorfull pizzas and dough-based dishes can be produced. Other authentic
equipment which every family should have is the pasta machines (most households have only the
manual one) and the gelato machines. Going over to smaller equipment which is very specific for
this part of the country is the mezzaluna knife. It is a half-moon shaped knife for chopping and
often also for producing pestos and other delicate fresh products. It may have one till three
blades. Then there is the pizza cutter, which like the name states is used for cutting straight lines
into pizza bases. The cannoli roll is more traditional and may not be found in every household as
cannolis are mostly bought from the street sellers and cafes. As coffee is an essential part of
every Italian on the list of special utensils the traditional grinder and the stove-top coffee cooker
can’t be missed out.
Culture and Ethical considerations
Most Sicilians follow old traditions through every generation and continue living in the
way their ancestors used to live. Meaning that even with the newest technologies and new
cuisines, the Sicilians still respect their heritage and background. The dining ethics and traditions
did not change with the time. Breakfast and lunch are less critical and more in the form of
smaller meals eaten fast during the day. Dinner is the most essential meal in every family where
they gather and eat together mostly around eight o'clock in the evening. Italian families are
cheerful and rather big and generally live all generations under the same roof. The father is the
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"man of the house", but the mother and grandmother are the rocks of the family which hold
everything together and are very respected. One should never leave a wine glass empty ifnot
willing to drink the next one. It is not considered to be polite if elbows are rested on the table,
same as one should pick up cheese rather with a knife than with the fingers.
Eating outside of the house is a dining experience for itself and in Italy and Sicily divided
into different catering outlets. Those would be ristorante (formal restaurants), trattoria ( similar
to the ristorante but more casual), Osteria (smaller than the two previous and informal), pizzeria
(restaurant specialised in pizzas and pasta), polleria and rosticceria (fast food stands with mostly
deep-fried dishes), gelateria (cafes dedicated for icecreams) and pasticceria (pastry shop).
During their loud and passionate lifestyle, the food is considered a medium which is
connecting the family, friends and in the end the whole experience of living and feeling alive.
SICILY AND SOUTHERN ITALY ASSIGNMENT
References
Via Verdi. (2019). The History of Risotto | Via Verdi. [online] Available at:
https://viaverdimiami.com/the-history-of-risotto/ [Accessed 10 dec. 2018].
Gourmet Traveller. (2018). The story behind risotto. [online] Available at:
https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/news/food-news/the-story-behind-risotto-2838 [Accessed 8
Dec. 2018].
Life in Italy. (2018). Riso & Risotto - Life in Italy. [online] Available at:
https://www.lifeinitaly.com/food/riso-risotto [Accessed 8 Dec. 2018].
Guide, I. and Guide, I. (2018). Italy - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. [online] Commisceoglobal.com. Available at: https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/italy-guide
[Accessed 8 Dec. 2018].
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