An image that is often portrayed of Italians, is that of passionate, loveable, rule-benders who thrive on creative chaos. Roberto Benigni receiving an Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards comes to mind. And while this image may be valid for many aspects of Italian life, when it comes to cooking and food
in general, Italians have a very precise notion of the rules--of what is correct,
what is allowed and what is simply--well, not Italian.
The most strictly observed rule has to do with the freshness of the ingredients. What makes the food of Sicily so uniquely special is its freshness. The ingredients are produced locally --grocery shopping is done daily in most homes; produce, meat and fish are brought to market fresh every day; and cheeses, cured meats and breads are produced regionally with great pride, and according to time-honored traditions and standards. Those who live in more rural areas almost always have gardens. Those who live in cities still manage to grow gardens however small and makeshift they may be..
The late Calabrian artist Italo Scanga, a dear friend and mentor, once said to me: "People ask me how do you make Italian pasta? I tell them that to make Italian pasta you need Italian flour and Italian water."
Fresh, local ingedients define Italian food. In Sicily, tomatoes are grown is vast quantities and hung in patios to keep fresh while others are dried for use in winter. Lettuce, eggplant, zucchina and and sweet and hot peppers are a staple of most gardens And all are delicious in their simplicity.