Sicily is considered the world's first multicultural society. It is Europe's most cosmopolitan region. Sicily is where east meets west.
Sicilian cooking is unique in Italy, blending extravagant Arab and northern techniques with simple peasant ingredients. Most meals were based mainly on the catch of the day and the pick of the garden. Today's cuisine is an amazing mosaic reflecting every foreign invasion that took place: Greek tyrants, Arabs, Norman knights, Byzantine bishops, Holy Roman emperors, Phoenicians. Sicily is Europe, Africa, and Asia on one island.
It is believed that Gelato (Ice Cream) is probably invented in Sicily during roman times. A relay of runners would bring snow down from the top of Mt. Etna and flavor it with almonds and fruits. Then, they would sell this unique snack to wealthy patrons. This would also be the origin of Italian ice.
Sicilian cuisine is characterized by its fanciful juxtaposition of sweet and sour flavors. It is also known for its abundant use of fragrant herbs, its succulent seafood, its rich dessert, and its luscious citrus fruit. Cuisine in each region is based on what the land has to offer, whether it's the regions vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards, wheat fields or the coast made gold with lemon and orange groves. Citrus groves are characteristic of have street-side markets where a farmer will sit peeling the skin off a lemon, dip the pith in sugar, and eat the whole lemon while he serves patrons.
In the region of Catania there is an annual celebration called the Feast on St. Agatha. St. Agatha was a martyr alive during St. Peter's time. When laws were written against Christianity a magistrate tried to profit from her sanctity and bribes her into sex. When she said no he tortured her by cutting off her breasts and rolling her over hot coals. As she was being tortured an earthquake hit knocking over a statue the killed the magistrate and cleared the building. Just before dying she thanked god for ending her pain.
The Feast of St. Agatha is celebrated on February 3rd, 4th, and 5th. It is three days of cult, devotion, folklore, and tradition that stand alone in the world. Catanians and tourists swarm the streets numbering about a million people. All private houses are open and well lit. Coffee houses are filled. The streets are crowded with stalls and booths where all sorts of sweets are sold. The procession is lead by "Candelora" which are similar to man(8-12) powered floats. The first represents fishmongers. The next is the heaviest, carried by 12 men, and represents bakers. The second heaviest represents vinters (winemakers). There is one for green grocers which bears a bust of St. Agatha. The butcher Candelora has a small bouquet of flowers. Next, a pasta candelora that is holding eighteenth century candles. Finally, grocers with a liberty style theme.
Sicilian culture is different from Italian culture. When Sicilians leave for the mainland they say there going to Italy. They don't consider themselves Italians and at the same time Italians think that Sicilians are the scum of the earth. Regardless, Sicily will continue to be one of the most interesting and historical regions of the world.