Under The Influence – A Look At Sicilian Cuisine

Under the influence – a look at Sicilian cuisine

How Sicily’s history and geography set the table for exceptional eating (Oh, and the kayaking’s great, too!)


Aaahh, Sicily – forever known to school kids as the pizza slice at the tip of Italy’s boot.

And it’s fitting that food should come to mind, because for gourmands and the less gastronomically literate alike, the fare of Sicily tells the story of its existence.

If Sicily can be thought of as a microcosm of Italy itself, then Sicilian cuisine can be seen as a window to its culture.

And, believe me, at Tofino Expeditions we defer to culture. Mealtime is always a big part of any kayak expedition, but even more so on this tour than others because, frankly, so much of the Sicilian experience is about the food.


The latitude and longitude of it all

As the Mediterranean’s largest island, Sicily’s located at its crossroads. Closer to North Africa than the northern Italian border, its culinary influences are layered and multiple. While various areas of Italy’s mainland underwent the separate effects of Greek, Roman, Turkish, Spanish, French and Papal conquests, Sicily experienced them all. And, unlike Italy, it also felt impact from the Arabs. All of which comes out in its tantalizing offerings.

Through its history, Sicily has been in the hands of numerous powers with the Romans taking charge in about 210 BC, followed by a Germanic and Byzantine period as the Roman Empire fell. The Arab domination occurred in the 10th and 11th centuries, and it was their use of melons, apricots, sugars and sweet spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron and cloves, that we still see and taste today.

Arab rulers introduced irrigation techniques suited for arid conditions that allowed for the introduction of crops like lemons, oranges and pistachios. These flavors and foods are all highlights and mainstays of island cuisine.

French and German influences can be seen in the regional fondness for meat dishes. The Spanish introduced assorted items, such as peppers, turkey, tomatoes, maize and cocoa. While along the east coast Greek colonizers shared olive oil, fish and beans. North African influences felt particularly in the southwestern area saw the introduction of couscous.

Of course, the island’s hot climate (after all, it’s at the same latitude as Tunisia) and rich, fertile volcanic soils help ensure that vegetables and fruit abound.

Needless to say, this amazing patchwork of flavors and foods have combined to create a mouth-watering palette of deliciousness that will captivate your taste buds.


Lets not forget about dessert

Did I mention that the Arabs also brought along sugarcane production techniques? Well, they did – laying a foundation for breath-taking desserts like cassata and cannoli.

In fact, Sicily is believed to be the birthplace of gelato and sorbeto. With the sugarcane production, abundant fruits and snow from Mount Etna, it was bound to happen. Some people like to enjoy a beer after a few hours’ paddling, but give me a gelato any day!

And everyone deserves to partake in the Sicilian breakfast of champions – almond granita and brioche. This sweet, icy delicacy served over a flaky pastry alongside the always-excellent coffee makes waking up a treat.

Without a doubt, the bounty of Sicily offers a fusion of flavors that must be savored and celebrated.

Come join us in the celebration, won’t you?


Want to know more about our Sicilian kayaking trips? Please visit our website and  online catalog for further details. For more information about this destination or any of our trips, get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email info@tofino.com.



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