10/17/05 - sicily

In today's excerpt - Sicily, war, olive oil and wine:

"Sicily, the ancient Trinacria (Three-cornered Land, so-called from its shape), is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean.  When the Greeks began to surge across the Ionian and plant their  settlements, dispossessing the native islanders, Sicily was heavily wooded and had extremely fertile soil. ... The struggle for the possession of Sicily [among the Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans] was to rage for nearly five hundred years, from about 700 BC until 212 BC, when it was finally annexed as a province of Rome.  Even stripped and denuded as it is today, it remains not only one of the richest, but also one of the most beautiful islands in the sea. ...

"The olive and the vine, both of which the Greeks assiduously cultivated in their new colonies, are as emblematic of Sicily as they are of Greece itself.  ... 'Animal fat, especially in the form of butter, is difficult to get in typical Mediterranean Lands on account of the scarcity of summer pasturage. ... A digestible fat like olive oil is especially necessary to Mediterranean man since his diet typically includes little meat, especially butcher meat.

"... grapes swell with juice precisely at the period when rainfall is minimal or altogether absent.  But the drying up of the streams makes it difficult for man to get pure drinking water at the time when thirst is greatest ... [T]he grape as plucked has a 'bloom' on its surface.  In that waxy bloom lives a kind of yeast which, if mingled with the juice by the crushing process, causes 'spontaneous' fermentation, turning sugar into alcohol. Wine-making in its origin is thus a purely natural process."


Ernle Bradford


Mediterranean: Portrait of a Sea


Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.


Copyright 1971 by Ernle Bradford


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