Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food

Mary Taylor Simeti, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-394-56850-8
While restoring her husband's family farmhouse in Sicily during the 1970s, American-born longtime Sicily resident Simeti ( On Persephone's Island ) discovered the ``very ancient past''--specifically, culinary--of peasant culture in a maritime land. ``Bookish browsing'' led her ``far afield'' to an ``eccentric vision of food'' unveiled in this chronicle of the island's rich heritage, bequeathed by invaders, exacted by the hunger of the poor and marked by the aristocracy's ``ability to transform the extraordinary'' and make it their own. In a lighter tone, the expatriate celebrates street food, convent confections and ice cream--adored by Sicilians and descended from a sort of ur-sherbet (``sarbat'') made by the Saracens. Simeti writes exquisitely of the foods of Odysseus and the cult of Aphrodite, of capers ``trailing long sprays of coin-shaped leaves.'' Cups and tablespoons may appear foreign at such moments, but classic recipes are presented as meticulously as historical data. Readers may be moved to follow the example of Alexis of Tarentum, who in the fourth century B.C. ``learnt to cook so well in Sicily'' that he caused ``banqueters to bite . . . the plates for joy.'' Illustrated. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-88001-610-0
Paperback - 349 pages - 978-0-8050-1601-7
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