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Much of the Cuisine We Now Know, and Think of as Ours, Came to Us by War By Victoria Pope

The relish on my plate is Sicilian, a tangy blend of sweet and sour flavors. I can pick out some of the ingredients—eggplant, capers, celery—right away. I haven’t a clue, however, about the forces that came together to create this exquisite vegetable dish.

Gaetano Basile, a writer and lecturer on the food and culture of Sicily, does know. He has invited me to Lo Scudiero, a family-run restaurant in Palermo, as a tasty introduction to the island’s food and its history. He explains that the appetizer I am eating, caponata, exists because of transformative events that took place more than a thousand years ago. It was then that Arab forces invaded, bringing new crops, agricultural know-how, and other innovations that were far above the standards of medieval Europe.

On the first day of the conquest, in June, 827 a.d., ten thousand men arrived from Tunisia. “They were not led by a general as you might think,” Basile says, “but by a jurist, an expert in law. What was their business here? They were Aghlabids from Tunisia and Fatimids from Egypt. These guys came here for a simple operation of religious conquest.” But along with that mission they brought “so many things I can’t even list all of them,” Basile adds. “Hard grain, without which we could not make pasta, and sugarcane. Sugar alone would have already been enough, since it means having a powdered sweetener with which wonderful things could be made.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/local-cuisine-war-tradition-food-history-cultural-travel-180961610/#RCJ1zU5Rqeleimyh.99
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Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/local-cuisine-war-tradition-food-history-cultural-travel-180961610/#RCJ1zU5Rqeleimyh.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/local-cuisine-war-tradition-food-history-cultural-travel-180961610/#RCJ1zU5Rqeleimyh.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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