My Quirky Sicilian Village, Part 3 (Bread)

October 16, 2012

We eat bread in rings around here.

They’re bigger than a bracelet, smaller than a hula-hoop.

About necklace-size, I’d say.

So fragrant and pretty that you could almost wear one around your neck with a little black dress. Nibble on it all evening.

But I must not kid. Like olive oil, bread is sacred here. Never place it on the table upside down. Never throw it away. If it’s old, make breadcrumbs. If it gets moldy, kiss it, make the sign of the cross, and apologize to Jesus.

Ring of Sicilian Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga

Ring of Sicilian Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga

What food do you worship?


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47 comments to My Quirky Sicilian Village, Part 3 (Bread)

  • Susane

    Yes, I agree; my Sicilian father would never let us toss bread or mishandle it in any way at the table. It was a given that it was sacred and should be treated so at all times. It made me appreciate the beauty and taste and, of course, my father!! Susane

  • I think so Jann.. Sicilian cuisine is full of delicious contributions from the Arab domination of the island: just think about fish couscous from the Trapani district… yummy!

  • joanne

    BINGO! My grandfather was from Palermo and Santa Caterina Villarmosa. He always told my father that bread was sacred. My parents always kissed the old bread and threw it to the birds…we were supposed to always handle bread with respect.. no tossing a loaf across the table or room etc…

    wonderful blog as always, jann. I could tear off a piece of that bread right now and have a private feast!

    • Jann

      When I think how I handled bread in the US as a child–making spitballs, etc with it and throwing it around the room–such a sacrilege for Sicilians!!!

  • Don’t you just love Italian tradition and superstition! You learn something new everyday…signing out as I throw salt over both shoulders Love it!
    Carla x

  • cemal karahan

    Oh, Jann…In Turkey stories, fables, anecdotes, novels and poetry never end because of a different heritage.The bridge whose one end in the west , and the other in the east, just a crossroad of every culture whose past had alrady become layers to be discovered, relations with The Old European nations, Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia,Tunus, Morocco,Libya, Italy and The British and Russia , the Arab word…etc…count, count and count…! It never ends…There is loads of adventure awating to be written..Think about 22 million km square and its people and 500 years..! by the way I thank you for your remark about me but writing is so challenging and unfortunately I am not an able man….!

  • what food I worship……? it’s hard to say, but I really ADORE arancini!!!!!!
    anyway..I like to say that here in Sicily it’s really hard to give up to what I call the 3 magic P..P for PASTA, P for PANE and P for PIZZA..
    un abbraccio!

    • Jann

      Yes, those wonderful, magic 3 Ps! (So good, but why are all 3 fattening???)
      Un abbraccio back to you, Lucia.

  • cemal karahan

    You should know the story written by Quentin Reynolds and named ‘A Secret For Two’. In that story , milk is delivered in a street in Montreal in a milk wagon drawn by a white horse named Joseph. Likewise, our bread used to be brought to our quarter in a bread wagon drawn by a large white horse who once bit one of my friend’s arm. We would gather round the wagon and get the bread we need and bite the crisp part of it and take it home that way. Bread used to be sacred in our culture ,too but not any longer just because of the changed consumption attitude.It is a shame, of course…..!

    • Jann

      Cemal, I love your story–it sounds like something from a long-ago era, doesn’t it? So charming. Thank you! (Why not write a memoir with your tales of old Turkey, Cemal??? I’d love to read it.)

  • Mmmm, I can almost smell and taste this bread from here! Great photos, too!

  • John Schinina

    Ciao,Jann, This bread post reminds me of my childhood in Greenwich Village. Everyday my mother would give me 18cents for a loaf of Sicilian bread, to be picked up on my way home from Washington Square Park, where I played after school.
    The bakery was located a few steps from our apt. My memories of this delicous bread came back with your post. Thank you for that.

    • Jann

      I love it, John. 18 cents! Too bad those days are long gone. Your childhood sounds glorious–your playground the gorgeous Washington Square Park!!! You always say you’re jealous of me, and now I can say right back I’M JEALOUS OF YOU! So there!

  • ***wear one around your neck with a little black dress**

    Ahhhh, the aroma of fresh bread :))) it smells like “Home.”

    Jann, I worship chocolate: raw, simmering, boiled, microwaved, in chunks, in bars…but mostly, in my mouth!

    Xxx Hope you are well. I LOVE the bread in rings. It reminds me of Easter Bread. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • If I was a church-goin’ kinda gal I might be tempted to wear that round ring of bread as a hat. Reach up and break little pieces off to nibble on if the sermon ran on a bit too close to lunch time.
    What food do I worship? Pasta, naturalmente!

    • Jann

      Pasta-holic, are you? That just goes to prove you are Italian. Love the bread-as-hat look, but you’d be run out of the duomo if you tried it in Sicily! 🙂

  • Andrea

    yum! looks divine!
    The second photo reminds me of the beginning of a King Cake… just add a little sugar and cinnamon to the dough and some purple, gold, and green icing on top! I’m a Louisiana girl!

    • Jann

      Ciao Andrea–I had never heard of King Cake till now, but next time I’m in Louisiana I hope to find me some…… Mmmm.

  • This posts smells delicious Jann!!! The ring form is so perfect. Love love love 😉 x

    • Jann

      Janine, speaking of bread–how do you like your Umbrian salt-free bread????? I have to say that it has not yet grown on me.

  • jan walcott

    We have traveled all over Italy and have sadly found much of the bread sadly lacking, particularly in restaurants — tasteless, like sawdust. However, we had good bread in Cefalu and Palermo. But, back home here in Illinois in the small town of Highwood, there is a large collection of people with Sicilian backgrounds. The local Italian market, Poeta’s, has great varieties of sausage, cheese and olive oil. But the bread!!! They are salty baguettes covered in sesame seeds. But, the baker is a local carpenter, and if he has a project going, no bread!!! People are in line to pick up a loaf of Concetta’s Bread daily, and it usually barely survives the car trip home!

    • Jann

      That is sooooo interesting, Jan, about your local carpenter-cum-baker!!!! The breads in the US are really getting GOOD, I have to agree with you. The odd thing in Italy is that it’s very hard to find good dark, whole-wheat breads. There are a pair of bakers not to far from me in Sicily who are starting a new bread venture using “vintage” grains. I blogged about them here.

  • I was born in Siracusa and I loved the bread. There was a little grocery store in the building where I used to live where we bought that kind of bread every day but it was in the shape of a half moon, not round like the one in the picture. It was very dense and delicious, though. I miss it 🙂

    • Jann

      Ciao Carmela, benvenuta al blog! Ah, Siracusa. What a wonderful place… Is the half-moon bread in Sicily known as lunedde????

  • Jann, in answer to your question, there lions everywhere in Spain. I saw a lot of them on the facades of homes in the village. Reading this post, I could really see the Spanish influence. Spaniards do everything you describe in this post! Nana would never let us thrown bread away. It either had to be donated to the neighbor for his chickens or made into bread pudding. If it was moldy, then a kiss and an apology to God was made on the spot. Would you believe that I still do this? Our neighbor in Spain, Santiago, gets leftover bread for his son’s chickens and we’re still ensuring bread isn’t upside down when placed on the table. Just beautiful, I say! :)d

  • Antoinette

    Please let me know what the name of the bread is. My grandfather, who died in 1962 use to go to 39 Street in Brooklyn and bring home a bread like the one in your picture: dull coloring (not shinny like some breads) and the interior was white and tight like a pound cake, no air holes. When he died, this bread which was my favorite was not seen on the table again. I always felt if I knew what it was called I would go into Manhattan and find a bakery in an Italian section, maybe Greenwich Village, and see if they have it. All breads had names, I remember the San Giuseppe bread too.

    • Jann

      Ciao Antoinette–the ring-shaped bread is called ciambella, as far as I know. At least in my region (every region seems to have its own names for things). And yes, it’s very dense and chewy. I hope you can find it in NY. Buona fortuna!

  • ahhh real bread the stuff of life!!!
    ciao love lisa x

  • Luscious post once again, Jann! Love the image of wearing the bread with black and nibbling all evening! And the texture of the bread against the texture of the wall—truly memorable.

  • Figs! I can’t get enough of them. I have been stealing them from overhanging branches. Unfortunately the season is just about over.

    • Jann

      Debra, I just signed up for your wonderful blog! By the way, we have very good friends (from Santa Fe, NM) in Bagni di Lucca. Do you know them, by chance????

  • Gian Banchero

    Though we have excellent Italian-French bread here in the San Francisco Bay Area (California) we are yet to have good Sicilian bread, hence to taste bread of the homeland it has to be homemade which is a laborious process but well worth the effort. I make a variety from Palermo using the middle-eastern seed called mahaleb which along with its sesame seed topping produces an ambrosial rich earthy flavor worthy to go to war for.

    • Jann

      Next time I’m in Palermo, I will hunt down this bread, Gian! (Kudos to you for baking your own bread, by the way.)

  • Traditions, traditions. The bread appreciation is a good one. I love your explanation of how to deal with moldy bread. I could so visualize that happening. BTW – I love this series. Good stuff.

  • Toni Rich

    I miss my grandmother’s bread! No matter how many times I make it, hers was better. It never was a plain loaf of bread. It was braided, either long or round, with decorative slits, or little rounds with cut decoration. Most of the time with a shiny egg wash. And the angels are on the table until all the food is removed and put away.

    • Jann

      Hi Toni–thank you so much for this lovely comment, and welcome to the blog. I watched my friend’s grandmother making Easter breads, and she braided it too and did the egg wash. Not just that: she kept saying prayers of various sorts as she was stooped over her dough.I wrote one down:

      A Sant’Antoniu
      bedu e buonu
      L’ancilu passa e a razia ci lassa.
      L’ancilu passa e a razia ci lassau.
      Pani i Rausa criscitilu quantu ‘na ciusa.
      Pani i ‘ncampagna criscitilu quantu ‘na muntagna.
      Sadly, younger people don’t seem to know how to bake bread…. I sure hope the tradition is not lost…

  • Ohhhhh this must taste really delicious! I really like Sicilian bread, especially because – unlike other Italian regions – we love to put sesame seeds on top, and it makes it taste so delicious!

    • Jann

      Mmm, yes, Romano. With sesame seeds it’s even better. I wonder if this is an Arab contribution to Sicily’s cuisine?

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