THE FRENCH, THE ARAGONESE, AND THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF SICILIAN WINE

La Vucciria di Guttuso  copyCarlo d’Angiò and his Frenchmen arrived in Sicily, and conquered it, at or about the year 1266, chasing away the Hohenstaufen after a series of horrendous massacres. Aside from a few linguistic terms adopted by the Sicilians, the French did not leave too deep of an imprint on the already-rich Sicilian gastronomy. One interesting example of how French language was assimilated with Sicilian is the French term for “meat market”: boucherie.

 

 

The Sicilian Vespers-Francesco_Hayez_Over time, the word became vucciria, and was used in reference to  outdoor markets. The famous “La Vucciria” in the center of Palermo is  still an authentic market operating today, and has become a tourist  attraction, as well as memorialized by Sicilian modern artist, Renato Guttuso.

 

Santo Spirito i vespri sicilianiThe Sicilians saw themselves now being ruled to enable an alien tyrant make conquests from which they would have no benefit”
The first European revolution exploded in Palermo in 1282, in the form of a  popular uprising against the French usurpers. The event takes its name from an insurrection which began at the start of Vespers, the sunset prayer marking the beginning of the night vigil on Easter Monday, March 30, 1282, at the Church of the Holy Spirit just outside Palermo (at that time) now is part of the monumental cemetery. According to Steven Runciman, the Sicilians at the church were engaged in holiday festivities and a group of French officials came by to join in and began to drink. A sergeant named Drouet dragged a young married woman from the crowd, pestering her with his advances. Her husband then attacked Drouet with a knife, killing him. When the other Frenchmen tried to avenge their comrade the Sicilian crowd fell upon them, killing them all. At that moment all the church bells in Palermo began to ring for Vespers. Runciman best describes the mood of the night:

TPanino with Panelle copy 2o the sound of the bells messengers ran through the city calling on the men of Palermo to rise against the oppressor. At once the streets were filled with angry armed men, crying “Death to the French” (‘Moranu tutti li Francisi’ in the Sicilian language). Every Frenchman they met was struck down. They poured into the inns frequented by the French and the houses where they dwelt, sparing neither man, woman nor child. Sicilian girls who had married Frenchmen perished with their husbands. The rioters broke into the Dominican and Franciscan convents; and all the foreign friars were dragged out and told to pronounce the word ‘ciciri’, meaning chickpeas (chee-chee-ree) whose sound the French tongue could never accurately reproduce, (they would pronounce see-see-ree) . Anyone who failed the test was slain… By the next morning some two thousand French men and women lay dead; and the rebels were in complete control of the city. Chickpeas flower is the main ingredient of the “panelle” a must of  the  Sicilian street food!

 

the still life with glass of red wineNinety years later, in 1372,  the House of Aragon established itself as the definitive ruler of the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which at that time included all of the regions from Abruzzo and Molise down, comprising what is referred to as “Southern Italy” today. The capital of the Kingdom was settled at Napoli, indicating a historical detachment from Sicily.
The Spanish-Aragonese dominion represents an important period for regional enogastronomy, considering vastness of the territory, and Sicilian wine thereby began to enjoy international fame on a new level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LEGEND OF SAINT LUCY, Arancini Cuccia and Panelle

Saint LucySaint Lucy of Syracuse (283-304) is the saint of Light and a protector of the Christian Faith, and, in terms of popular tradition, probably the most venerated Sicilian saint in the world. She died during the Diocletian persecution. Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283. Her father was of Roman origin, but he died when she was five years old, so Lucy and  her mother Eutychia were left without a protective guardian. Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God, and she hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. However, her mother, not knowing of Lucy’s promise and suffering from a bleeding disorder feared for Lucy’s future. She arranged Lucy’s marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Eutychia was persuaded to make a pilgrimage to Catania, in hopes of a cure. While there,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASt. Agatha came to Lucy in a dream and told her that because of her faith her mother would be cured and that Lucy would be the glory of Syracuse, as she was of Catania. With her mother cured, Lucy took the opportunity to persuade her mother to allow her to distribute a great part of her riches among the poor. News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to Lucy’s betrothed, who denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Paschasius ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor’s image. When she refused Paschasius sentenced her to be defiled in a brothel. The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword. According to the legend Lucia was tortured by eye-gouging .  

Siracusa - festa santa Lucia foto di Alaw277 copy 2 On December 13th of each year, presumably since the XV  Century, Sicilians pay tribute to her, specially at the dinner table. On this  day it is customary to renounce pasta and bread, the traditional Italian every day meal, as well as all other foods containing wheat flour, in her  honor. In Sicily, the majority of food stores are closed on St. Lucy’s Day. So what do we eat? If you are in Palermo, the  answer to this question is obvious: panelle and arancine and cuccìa .

Arancina con carne Palermo copy 

 

Arancine di riso, fried balls of rice (a grain introduced by the  Arabs) typically made with fillings such as tomato sauce with  meat (ragù), butter with peas and prosciutto, and, more  recently, dark chocolate.

 

 

 

 

Siracusa - Cuccia di Santa LuciaThe Cuccìa consists of wheat cooked with wine sugar and flavoured in many ways: adding ricotta and cinnamon or chopped chocolate, milk and chocolate, classic cream or chocolate cream, coffee and sugar.  Panelle, on the other hand, are thin cutlets made of chickpea flour and fried in seed oil. 

”The first depiction of the making of ricotta is an illustration in the medical treatise known as the “Tacuinum sanitatis” (medieval health handbook), the Latin translation of the Arab physician Ibn Butlan’s eleventh century “Taqwim al-sihha

”From sweetened ricotta put over cuccia (a wheat berry pudding eaten on St. Lucy’s Day) or piped into cannoli, to ricotta salata grated over pasta (an aged, salted form of ricotta where the curds pressed in wicker baskets to drain and solidify), ricotta is omnipresent in Sicilian cuisine today. As far as how the Normans might have been served ricotta,looking at what Sicily produced, it might have been as simple as ricotta mixed with the island’s incomparable honey and sprinkled with almonds and pistachios

 

 

 

Panelle sandwich hot n ready for a wedding  by Vanvakys

Once referred to as “piscipanelle”, panelle were traditionally sold by street vendors as a pedestrian snack food. Today, however, panelle have become a popular food in the home, and a “must” among typical Sicilian antipasto selections in restaurants, as well.
Thus, “arancine” and “panelle“, together with ” sweet cuccìa” became the unofficial foods eaten in celebration of the feast day of Saint Lucy.