Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Sicily is the greatest place on earth: The Empire of Ice Cream

A gorgeous paean to Sicily and its tradition of gelati, by Mary Taylor Simeti, in Saveur.

Christopher Hirsheimer, from Saveur, issue 52

..."Sicilians took their ice cream very seriously, at all levels of society. In northern Italy, ices remained the preserve of the sick or the wealthy until the late 19th century, owing to the cost and limited availability of ice and other ingredients. But in Sicily even peasants considered ices their due. William Irvine, an English gentleman visiting there in the early 1800s, marveled that "wretches whose rags have scarse adhesion enough to hang upon their bodies, yet find a baioc [a coin worth less than a penny] to spend in the ice shop". The lackadaisical Sicilian legislators may have been described as an "ice cream and sorbet parliament" by King Vittorio Amedeo II in the 1700s, but these were men who knew their priorities: when in 1774 Palermo's supply of snow gave out, the parliament dispatched armed dragoons to Etna to procure more. The demand for snow was insatiable. It is said that during a ball given in 1799, likely for the Bourbon king Ferdinand and his wife, Maria Carolina, such a quantity of ices was served that their production required 11,000 pounds of snow."

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