Friday, July 24, 2009

Sicily, Ancient and Modern

I've been enjoying Pomp and Sustenance by Mary Taylor Simeti, whose other books I've enjoyed in the past. Sicilian heritage, she shows, is rich with food writing. Simeti starts us off with Homer -- remember the roast meats whose aromas waft up to please the gods? Remember the gardens in the land of the Cyclops? That was Sicily, with pomegranates, pears, apples, figs, olives, and grape vines.

Archestratus of Gela, Sicily, in the fourth century BC wrote about roast tuna sprinkled with vinegar. Plato mentioned "gorging food twice a day" in Sicily. The fish and vegetables of the ancient isle compare remarkably to the deliciacies of Simeti's twentieth-century life on a farm with her own olive oil and her own produce.

She offers classic recipes: pasta with eggplant, oil, basil, ricotta and tomatoes. Pasta with fresh sardines, fennel, pine nuts, currants, saffron, and toasted breadcrumbs. She discusses the influence of the Arabs a millenium later.

She makes me want to go back to Sicily. Or at least try to cook some of these dishes or read some classics. I'm lazy. I'll just peruse her book.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This looks like a wonderful book. I was at Zingerman's this a.m., picking up their special bake pumpernickel raisin (always brings me back to childhood on the Upper West Side) and was drooling over the poster for the trip to Sicily. Um... out of my price range, so maybe I'll have to try this. Have you thought about suggesting it to Gene as one of the book club entries? It seems it would fit in beautifully.

Mae Travels said...

Jen -- I'm not sure about this as a book club selection because the recipes are so embedded in the text. I loved browsing it but it doesn't read like a narrative. I suggest it for fun browsing.