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Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her Pastries    by Victoria Granof order for
Sweet Sicily
by Victoria Granof
Order:  USA  Can
Regan, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Italian island of Sicily has a rich history. Because of its location in the Mediterranean, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Austrians, French, Bourbons and Saracens have all landed on its shores. Each has left their own individual imprint on Sicily's foods, especially on the island's pastries.

In these colorful and succulent pages, a brief history of Sicily precedes recipes for some of the most tantalizing pastries you could hope to encounter. Festivals abound on this beautiful island, and almost every one of them has a signature pastry to mark the event. Many of the recipes include a brief background that makes each more interesting. As you bite into any of the sweet morsels, you can imagine someone in past times enjoying the same pastry and relishing it as much as you do. Though these recipes have been adapted for American ingredients, the taste and texture remain as close as possible to the luscious pastries encountered on a trip to Sicily.

Can you imagine Eggplant and Chocolate Pastries? Why not? Aren't we all accustomed to zucchini bread? How about the traditional Citrus Filled Almond Pillows? Sounds divine to me. Sicilians seem to represent many body parts in pastries, such as Saint Lucy's Eyes. Lucy, who saved Rome from famine not once but twice, is honored by these cookies. Saint Agatha sliced off her breasts in martyrdom and is forever depicted by Virgin's Breasts cookies, complete with a cherry on top. Recipes range from Fried Pastries and my downfall (Gelati) to Cakes and Preserves, with everything in between. Clove-Scented Chocolate Cookies caught my eye, while gorgeous Marzipan fruits and vegetables made me drool.

I've always admired (and indulged in) the pastries in the Italian bakeries in Philadelphia and New York. Now I can have them in my own kitchen and wow my family and friends. Sweet Sicily would make a wonderful bride's gift or an anniversary present. But don't forget yourself. You're worth it.

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