Dreaming of Sicily through food

Christa Avampato
2 min readMay 19, 2024

Though I’m working on my dissertation for most of this weekend, I took a little time out to dream about my ancestral homeland thanks to Ben Tish’s gorgeous cookbook, Sicilia: A Love letter to the Food of Sicily. More than just recipes, Ben gives us a glimpse into the rich arid land, history, and the bustling society that is so prevalent on this island (and the many islands dotted along its coast). I particularly love his vivid descriptions of the food markets, each with its own unique spin on street food. I can’t wait to see and experience them myself.

Sicily’s history is dotted with many influences from many places and peoples. It’s not a melting pot, but rather an amalgam, a collage, with all the parts clearly visible and working together to create something none of them could do alone. Sicily isn’t one culture but many. Its food is its historical archive.

Arab and North African influences are some of the strongest we can find in Sicily’s cuisine, including both its ingredients and preparation. The Moors and the Islamic culture they brought are closely tied to Spain. However, they are just as prevalent, perhaps even more so, in Sicily. Pistachios and honey, oranges and lemons, saffron and pomegranates, sorbet and granite, couscous and sardines, almonds and pine nuts, raisins and fennel. If you love anything deep fried (and who doesn’t?), thank the Arabs who ruled Sicily in the 9th and 10th centuries for infusing that cooking preparation into Sicily and then on into the rest of Europe.

This island’s sprawling variety, so much packed into such a small amount of real estate, reminds me a lot of my home in New York. Here, Sicilian culture, along with hundreds of other cultures, can be seen and experienced all the time everywhere. Maybe my bloodline to Sicily is why I feel at home everywhere and with everyone–because my ancestors were diverse, people who came from all over to this plot of land that connects east and west, north and south, and celebrates its many influences.

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Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc