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fd-Sicily-msg – 2/23/12


Food of medieval Sicily.


NOTE: See also the files: fd-Greece-msg, fd-Italy-msg, Sicily-msg, fd-Africa-msg, olives-msg, fd-Greece-msg, frittours-msg, seafood-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sun, 2 Nov 2003 14:19:51 -0500 (GMT-05:00)

From: Christiane <christianetre at earthlink.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Scappi vs. the Sicilians

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


From: Ariane H phoenissa at netscape.net:

I've had arancini before, they're excellent!  And check this out - I was

just looking through Scappi (Venice, 1570) and found what looks like the

period version (and sweet rather than savory) of this dish:



Thank you for posting the Scappi recipe! [See frittours-msg – Stefan]


It's interesting to see that he had a rice fritter recipe. I think

arancini would be perfectly period for a Sicilian feast, though!

Someone had suggested to me off list that an interesting event wold be

a "Sicilian Vespers" fighting event (French vs. the Sicilians), and

I've been posting specifically Sicilian recipes in the hope that folks

may find them useful. Scappi published his recipes, but they are from a

mainland Italian viewpoint, specifcally Roman, and he was never

exposed to the Sicilian kitchen traditions. There are virtually no

Sicilian recipes printed from the medieval/Renaissance period, however,

but there is a very long, very oral tradition, and the Siculo-Arab

style of cooking varies greatly from that of mainland Italy. My

grandmother did not consider herself to be Italian, as many Sicilians

still do today. Cooks are now discovering recipes that families have

known for generations, and are finally writing them down. Yes, it took

500 years to do it, but hey, !

better late than never.


The sweet-and-sour flavors of Sicilian dishes and the tradition of

stuffed foods are the legacy of the Arabs, as are one-dish meals. The

intensely sweet Sicilian dessert dishes also are their legacy. The

Greeks left their legacy with the olive, the grape, and the caper. In

the golden age of Sicily under the Normans, they hired Arab cooks for

their kitchens, but introduced the concept of meats roasted on a spit.

After the expulsion of the Muslims and Jews, especially under the

Spanish Inquisition, pork gained status among the peasantry -- a pig to

slaughter showed wealth and Christian conformity. My Aunt Marie still

insists on making a pork roast every Christmas Day. It was just proper

in their neighborhood.


Anchovies and squid and octopus and tuna have always been part of

Sicilian cooking. I would not serve any of these at the average feast,

however, because of expense, allergies, and the general distaste most

folks have for strong-flavored fish or things that look like Cthulu

landed on their plate. I now enjoy octopus, but found it perfectly

revolting as a child.





Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 10:23:40 -0500 (GMT-05:00)

From: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Re: Mediterranean food

To: ekoogler1 at comcast.net, Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-ooks at ansteorra.org>


Here's what Clifford Wright has to say about the use of butter and

other animal fats in medieval Sicilian cuisine. What's really

interesting to me is that he mentions the village where my grandmother

came from, Corleone.

      "In the fourteenth century and up until the beginning of the

eighteenth century, animal fats such as butter, bacon, lard, mutton fat

(perhaps a vestige of the Arab presence), and beef suet were the fats

used in Sicilian cooking. In fact, the preferred cooking fat in

fifteenth-century Sicily was butter. According to the stricfizarii

(taxation records), these were the largest purchases. In Corleone, a

mountain town of western Sicily, butter was sold in a quartara, a kind

of narrow-necked earthenware vessel and was sometimes the only food to

accompany the bread available to the agricultural workers who used it

frequently in place of cheese.

     Although olive oil, the cooking fat most closely associated with

Sicilian cooking today, has been produced continually throughout

Sicilian history, it was rare and expensive until recently. Although

butter was used more than olive oil in Sicily, and it was a primary

cooking fat, its production and distribution was nevertheless limited.

In the Middle Ages, only the Jews bought olive oil in quantity as pork

fat was forbidden to them (the Muslim Sicilians having suffered their

final expulsion in the 1230s). The Jewish cooks fondness for olive

oil is partly behind this, but also most merchants dealing in Sicilian

olive oil for export were Jews. Don’t let the abundant use of olive

oil in contemporary Sicilian recipes fool you into thinking that olive

oil was always abundant in Sicily. When olive oil, with its modest

production, was used, it was used on bread or for seasoning dried

vegetable soups."


There are some useful essays on Mr. Wright's site about food history

for the Mediteranean region. http://www.cliffordawright.com





Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 19:51:56 -0500

From: "M. Traber" <mtraber251 at earthlink.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Mediterranean food

To: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>,   Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Anybody else here been to Sicily? a very marginal rocky place.


They have some olive orchards. They have lots of goats, and a fair

amount of sheep and cows. You squeeze an olive once a year, and then

feed the squeezed out residue to the goats, sheep and cows, OR you can

cure the olives and eat them all year. You can *squeeze* a goat, sheep

or cow teat every day. You get butter from the milk. Now, *which* makes

more sense? a once a year limited fat, or one that replenishes every day?


Aruvqan, nicknamed Margali



Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 19:54:38 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at woldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Cassata

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Here are a couple of quotes on the subject of cassata.





"There are a great number of Sicilian desserts that bear the Arab imprint,

and several that bear Arab names; of which the most famous is the 'cassata

siciliana.'  'Cassata' comes from the Arab word 'qas'a'. a large

steep-sided terracotta  bowl used to mold this amazing cake; made of

marzipan, sponge cake, and sweetened ricotta."


Simeti, Mary Taylor, "Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian

Food", 1989.



"For centuries, all of the 'cassat' of Sicily were made by nuns in their

convents, and there are stories that those nuns worked so hard before Easter

that some even forgot their regular devotions.  They were busy making the

quintessential Sicilian dessert that combines tastes brought by the Arabs

with the 'pan di spagna' that came with the Spanish.  Some think that the

word 'cassata' comes from the Arab 'qas'at'. big deep bowl; others

convincingly argue that it comes from the old Sicilian word 'caseata';  from

the Latin 'caseus' for heese.


Field, Carol, "The Italian Baker", 1985.



Date: Wed, 6 Apr 2005 15:23:20 -0700 (PDT)

From: Huette von Ahrens <ahrenshav at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Chicken baked in bread recipe

To: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>,   Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


I have a copy, but wasn't very impressed with

it as a history book.  It is more a modern

cookbook with recipes that the author claims

goes back into history, but never documents

her suppositions.




--- Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Arrggh. The title of Mary Taylor Simeti's book

> is "Pomp and Sustenance: 25 Centuries of

> Sicilian Food." Not "25 Years."

> But I am looking forward to getting my hands on

> this book, it's supposed to have a lot of food

> history in it.

> Gianotta



Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2005 15:20:22 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Chicken baked in bread recipe

To: "Christiane" <christianetrue at earthlink.net>, "Cooks within the

        SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


The book is interesting.  The true historical value may be open to question,

but the quotes scattered through the book point to useful sources.  It's

also a pretty good read.




> Arrggh. The title of Mary Taylor Simeti's book is "Pomp and Sustenance: 25

> Centuries of Sicilian Food." Not "25 Years."

> But I am looking forward to getting my hands on this book, it's

> supposed to have a lot of food history in it.

> Gianotta



Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2005 10:08:45 +0200

From: Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Pasta Experiment (long)

To: Barbara Benson <voxeight at gmail.com>,  Cooks within the SCA

        <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Am Dienstag, 14. Juni 2005 23:52 schrieb Barbara Benson:

> If anyone has any suggestions as to places I might look

> to find more info on the Cuisine of Norman Sicily I would love to hear

> it. I will append a list of books I am currently working with.


This is fascinating. Please keep us posted.


As to Norman Sicily, I would suggest looking at some dietetics texts. If you

can get your hands on the Viaticum, count yourself lucky (I haven't yet), but

the Salernitan Regimen Sanitatis should be easier. This was written in

Salerno around that time and reflect local practice and contemporary medical



Another thing you might want to look at are the Anglo-Norman Cookery

Books. They are not italian, but from what I read about Norman Sicily it seems

they retained quite a bit of their traditions.


> The Norman Kingdom of Sicily - Matthew


Is this any good? I just bought a new German book on medieval Sicily,

and I'm looking for more info.





Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2006 07:07:19 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] 12th Century Italian was 10th C. Cornish?

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


There's a chapter in


*Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe.

A Book of Essays*. Edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson.

New York: Routledge, 2002. which concentrates on Sicily.


Actually Travels with a Medieval Queen by Mary Taylor Simeti might also

be good.

Simeti offers a delightful, reflective reconstruction of a journey

undertaken in 1194-1195 by the Sicilian princess Constance from the dark

forests of Germany back to her ancestral island in the company of her

cold, conquering husband, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI.

It came out in 2001 and used copies (really cheap) are available.




Lilinah wrote:

> But the other two have me a bit mystified:

> - anything 12th c. Italian

> There's a nice amount of later Italian, but i'm not sure about

> recipes from the 1100s.



Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 06:04:42 +0200

From: Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] 10th C. Cornish?

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


Am Mittwoch, 25. Oktober 2006 02:26 schrieb Terry Decker:

>> Alternatively, since parts of southern Italy were, I think, still

>> inhabited by Muslims at that point, you could use Muslim recipes.

>> There are sources from both just after and a couple of centuries

>> before the 12th century, although little of the latter has been

>> translated.

> That might work, although the Muslims were pushed out of Sicily in 1091.

> Since Sicily still prepares a number of dishes similar to their Arabic

> counterparts, it's obvious the cuisine didn't change overnight.


There were Muslims in Sicily well into the 13th century, and the Norman kings

of Sicily (and no doubt other members of the upper classes) had Muslim cooks.

While nothing is stated about the cooks of Emperor Frederick II that I know

of, he had a large number of Muslims in his retinue, including physicians,

dancers, falconers, bodyguards, concubines and scribes. The Saracens don't

disappear from Southern Italy until the ethnic cleansing of the later 13th

century, though their settlement area and influence slowly dwindles.


And anyway, it's not like the cuisines of the Maghreb and southern Italy

aren't similar to start with. Evidence is unfortunately thin on the ground,

but from everything we can see it seems that in terms of everyday material

culture, the differences between ordinary Christians and ordinary Muslims

(and Jews) were very small. The church occasionally frets about this at the






Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2008 15:42:30 -0400 (EDT)

From: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Butter

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org


Period-wise, and in relation to my own personal obsession, medieval Sicily, here's some notes about the use of butter in the island's cuisine from Clifford Wright: http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/recipes/display/bycategory.php/recipe_id/886/id/15/. (That recipe looks yummy, too; wish my husband was not lactose intolerant.)


I like the note about the use of butter during the festivals for the Erycinian Venus (Eryx is the modern-day town of Erice). Also the bit about the use of butter as a cheese substitute in Corleone. One thing my Sicilian grandmother always did was use butter instead of olive oil for her garlic bread. My Italian teacher in college, who was from Rome, was surprised when I told her that. Apparently that's not a common practice on the mainland and especially in Rome. I've wondered if the use of butter in this case was a holdover from the distant past, since she was from Corleone.





Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2008 12:58:01 -0400 (GMT-04:00)

From: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Fun with Sicilian regional recipes ...

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org


I like to pop in on this site every now and again and see if the recipe files are updated. What I like is that this features recipes that are not well-known and you can see the medieval and Renaissance roots of some of them. Just click the region and you can see the recipes; they try to have one for every town in each province: http://sicilia.indettaglio.it/eng/gastronomia/gastronomia.html


Reasons why I love the Web, No. 368: It's a way to preserve some of these old-fashioned recipes and communicate them to people today.


Here are some of the ones from the site that I find interesting.


This one is from the province of Siracusa, from the town of Sortino; note the use of mint and vinegar:

Uope a la stemperata (Spoonbills in vinegar)

Ingredients: Spoonbills kg. 1, 3 cloves of garlic, a cup of vinegar, flour gr. 200, fresh mint, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Preparation: Wash and clean fish taking tripe out, flour and deep fry in hot oil. In another pan, brown chopped garlic (or if whole, take it out when brown), add fish, add vinegar, cook for a while and add salt, pepper and mint. Add half a cup of water and cook for 5 minutes. Place in a dish and dress with its juice.


Another variation on fish in vinegar, from Ribera in Agrigento:

Mulettu ammarinatu del Platani (Muletto fish in vinegar)

Ingredients: "muletti" (a local fish) gr. 800, vinegar gr. 250, 3 garlic cloves, flour gr. 200, minced orange peel, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Preparation: Wash and clean fish, take the tripe out, put in a bowl and leave the fish standing in vinegar for 15 minutes. Drain and dry fish, flour and deep fry. In a bowl mix a cup of vinegar, finely chopped garlic, half teaspoon salt, a lot of pepper and minced orange peel. Leave stand for ten minutes and then pour on the fish, previously placed on a dish. Serve cold with some chopped parsley on top.


From Cammarata in Agrigento:

Gatt? di sarde e carciofi (Sardine and artichoke pie)

Ingredients: 800 g sardines, 100 g breadcrumbs, 6 artichokes, oregano, 200 g primosale cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper.

Preparation: Clean sardines taking heads and tails off. Take the hardest part of artichokes off and cut in thin pieces. In a tin, previously greased with oil and dusted with breadcrumbs, put artichokes, sardines (previously rolled in breadcrumbs dressed with salt, pepper and oregano) and primosale cheese in layers. Top with breadcrumbs, some oil and bake for about 30 minutes.


From Cattolica Eraclea, also in Agrigento, an eel pie:

Anguille in camicia all'Eraclese (Eels in Eraclea way)

Ingredients: Eels about gr. 800, lemons 2, a bundle of wild fennel, olive oil, salt, pepper, flat bread dough kg. 1.

Preparation: Cut eels and put tin a pan with lemon juice, chopped wild fennel, half cup water, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook on a low flame for about 15 minutes, take eels off the flame, clean them well and put back in the pan with the juice.

Take the previously prepared flat bread dough (see the scacciate catanesi). Divide in two, roll it out and cover the bottom of a tin, previously greased and floured. Fill the dough sheet with eels, cover with the other sheet and cook in very hot oven (it would be better to cook it in a wood-burning oven).


From Sant'Angelo Muxaro in Agrigento:

Luna di Maometto (Mohammed's moon)

Ingredients: 700 gr. flour, 300 gr. butter, 4 eggs, 200 gr. honey, 200 gr. sugar, 1 lemon, a cup of marsala wine, 400 gr. dried figs, 100 gr. shelled walnuts, 100 gr. chopped almonds, salt.

Preparation: Mix flour with yolks and a grated lemon peel, a pinch of salt, and soft butter. Mix well and let it stand for about 2 hours. Apart, mix minced almond, minced walnuts, chopped dried figs, sugar, honey and Marsala wine. Place this mix in the centre of the sheet of dough you have previously prepared. Take the edge of the sheet, cover and make a half moon. Cook in preheated oven for about half an hour.


And this recipe from Zafferana Aetnea has flavors that are very familiar to the medieval cook; Zafferana is known for its honey, the bees love the flowering broom that blooms in the spring:

"Tortiglioni" pasta with honey

Ingredients: 100 grams of acacia honey, 40 grams of butter, a glass of white wine, a spoonful of vinegar, 350 grams of tortiglioni pasta, a litre of chicken broth, cinnamon, ginger and saffron.

Recipe: Melt the butter in a saucepan at moderate flame. Add the acacia honey previously heated in water bath and the white wine. Keep cooking until to evaporate the wine and add a tablespoon of vinegar, a pinch of cinnamon powder, a pinch of ginger powder and the saffron dissolved in a little hot water. Cook for a few minutes with a lowered flame. Bring to boil the chicken broth and then cook the tortiglioni in the same broth. Put the cooked tortiglioni in a bowl hot with the butter and the sauce of honey and saffron. Serve the dish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.





Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 16:53:35 -0500 (EST)

From: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>

To: Cooks <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Grilled lamb intestines, yummy!


Ok, maybe not yummy, but the subject line caught your attention, didn't it? Apparently these are authentic Palermo street food:




Me, I'd probably like them, but then again I seem to like offal. I really want to try the grilled spleen sandwiches, pane ca' meusa:




This is a fun blog. Great photos too. And if I ever find a recipe for setteveli (a seven layer cake with hazelnut cream, chocolate mousse, pralines, etc.) I will surely share it.


But back to the lamb guts on a stick, is this popular in other areas of the Meditteranean?





Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2011 21:07:35 -0500

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Sicily and Food with Couscous in the Lead






On Jan 10, 2011, at 8:38 PM, Daniel  wrote:

<<< Just opened the most recent issue of Saudi Aramco World.  Nice  

article on foods in Sicily of Arabian origin.


Daniel >>>



Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2011 15:44:57 -0400 (GMT-04:00)

From: Christiane <christianetrue at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Arabic books of husbandry (emilio szabo)


From: emilio szabo <emilio_szabo at yahoo.it>

<<< http://filaha.org/ >>>


Emilio, this is wonderful. I have been trying to find out more in a particular filaha text that allegedly commented on onion-growing practices in Sicily. Apparently these Sicilian farmers were acknowledged as the experts. I think it was the text attributed to ibn Bassan.


I understand that Giarratana, in the province of Ragusa, is known today for growing enormous sweet white onions. They have an onion festival every August, the Sagra de Cipolle:




And apparently onions weren't all they were grilling at that festival ...




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org