On Being Half Sicilian

It’s so important to appreciate and respect our family roots, no matter how old we are or well-traveled or educated. One always comes full circle in when you’re able to understand at least a little something about our grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond them. What where their struggles? What were their professions? How did they live, what did they eat? What were they passionate about in life?   The answers are often humbling, as in my case.

Video: Siracusa (notice the papito/papyrus plants!), Catania, Ragusa and Taormina

My grandparents came from Sicily, a small fishing village just outside of Catania, on the eastern side of the large and absolutely beautiful Mediterranean island. I often refer to my Sicilian roots in the way of food, but my love of Sicily now goes much deeper, for it’s a place I didn’t quite grasp until I actually visited at the age 0f 18, and that visit changed my life forever. 

One day I may get into the details of my experience there  a little deeper but for now I’ll just begin unearthing the story of how I came to truly love food, and love living, for the first time in my life.  It’s where I began my love affair with fresh food, cooking and market shopping and stopped all the madness of calorie-counting, dieting and crazy exercising- although I tried to extend those things in the first few days I was there, which was nuts because I practically got ran over by speeding cars winding down the roads to the rocky Mediterranean beaches and lagoons. No sidewalks there…

Instead, I was met with spreads of wonderful Sicilian dishes, visits from long-lost parenti (relatives) and invitations from friends of family. 

Every. single. night.

And gelato, a different variety every time, as we relaxed during the ritual of la paseaggiata.

I bonded with family that I finally had a chance to get to know deeply and understand myself as part of something incredibly deep-rooted, with traditions and an intense history of love and loss. The food was simply the glue that held it all together and suddenly made sense of everything my Nonni (Sicilian grandparents) did during my youth back home in Ohio, as well as the aromas that came out of their kitchen.

I now appreciate the fact that understanding where one comes from is like jet fuel for propelling you into the world, with all it’s struggles and triumphs that are sure to come our way. It has helped me understand so many of the why’s and how’s in my life and truly is at least half of the reason I’m even in love with what I am doing right now with regards to food writing, cooking and sharing it all with anyone with a shred of interest in the same.

To be continued, insha’allah…

2 thoughts on “On Being Half Sicilian

  1. Assalaamu’alaykum Yvonne 🙂

    I’m Eats Meets West (not a spelling error hehe) aka EMW, a fellow food blogger over at I’ve been following My Halal Kitchen for quite a while now. Mashaa’Allah, I love to read all the thoughts you ponder over and events you go through as a Halaal foodie. It’s posts like these, though, that really bring me back to savour the sweet memories 🙂

    Recently, I’ve realized just how much I missed from being disconnected, uninterested, and sometimes even embarrassed of my culture as a youth. Being Indian, food definitely plays a dominant role in family life, similar to how it does in Italy. Yet when I was young, I just felt like other cultures were better and that my culture was boring. Alhamdulillah, I seem to have snapped out of my awkward phase and have realized all that my great country has to offer – including the best part, the food. Now I too now feel a deep connection with my ancestors as I slowly regain what I missed out on. I try to enjoy what I have and so, am starting to learn the family recipes, step by step.

    Still, when I think of the sacrifices my ancestors must have made to live their lives and then move here, Toronto, it truly is humbling. Because it took me this long to realize the value of the culture I have, when my ancestors seem to have known it all along.

    JazaakAllah for the moving post. I can’t wait to hear more!

    Wa Salaam~

  2. Assalamoalaikum Yvone!
    Here I need serious advice from you . Can u guide me where can i find halal food in taormina,sicily? I really need to know it in a day as i have to travel there after two days. And as we will be in hotel so i wont be able to cook myself. It would be very nice if u can guide me, even if u know only a single halal restaurant that will do it.
    JazakAllah khair

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