Insight into Islamic-ruled Sicilian Cuisine Reveals Residents Enjoyed Forbidden Pork
Get a short url
From around 831 to 1091, the Islamic kingdom known as the Emirate of Sicily ruled the island of Sicily, with the city of Palermo serving as a key cultural and political hub for the Muslim world. Consumption of pork is declared “haram” in Islam, which is explicitly stated in the Holy Quran.
While Sicily was under Islamic rule for nearly three centuries, some locals ate pork despite religious regulations prohibiting it, according to a recently published study.
Food residues on 134 medieval cooking pots used between the 9th and 12th centuries AD were studied by an international team of experts, demonstrating that the medieval Sicilian diet was strongly influenced by where people lived and the food available locally.
According to the research, titled “New Perspectives on Early Middle Ages Islamic Cuisine: Analysis of Organic Residues from Pottery in Rural and Urban Sicily” and published in PLOS, around 83 fragments came from Palermo and 51 from the site of Casale San Pietro, located in the plain outside Castronovo di Sicilia in the province of Palermo in central Sicily.
The people of Palermo, like most of their Islamic conquerors, ate beef, mutton, and a variety of vegetables. However, those who lived outside the city instead ate dairy products and grapes (and probably also made wine which was exported from the island), as well as banned pork meat, research has revealed.
“Analysis of the residues preserved in pottery has, for the first time, revealed important insight into cooking in medieval Islamic Sicily. We have identified a diverse range of products made into kitchen utensils, as well as regional differences in the use of ceramics as for the processing of dairy products and vines “, research summary says.
“The consumption of pork and alcohol is prohibited in the hadiths but, to what extent these restrictions were observed in everyday life from the beginning of the Middle Ages is questionable, especially in a pluralistic society like Sicily was at that time. era, “noted the authors.
Interestingly, despite the fact that most of the residue recovered came from pork, scientists found no evidence that medieval Sicilians consumed marine or freshwater products, which are common among modern islanders.
“The consumption of pork is prohibited within the framework of the Islamic religion, which is reflected by its absence of culinary literary sources. However, the complete absence of pork in Sicily during this period cannot be assumed,” the research said. . “For all four sites studied, faunal remains of goats (sheep and goats), cattle and domestic birds have been identified.”
According to scientists, mixing a wide range of food products is compatible with the colorful foods mentioned in the Arabic literature, and the variations observed between rural and urban areas indicate that there is still much to learn about the differences between them. traditions of Sicilian society.
“With the Islamic Green Revolution, certain vegetables, fruits and grains acquired new importance and the written sources of Islamic and complex mixtures of herbs, spices and vegetables are well documented in Arabic literature,” the study says. . “Besides spinach, eggplant and artichokes, other vegetables mentioned in historical sources include turnip, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, garlic and leek.”
In addition, the dishes often reflect a bittersweet / salty palate, where fruits and fruit juices have been added to salty meat dishes, for example citrus fruits (oranges and lemons), apples, pomegranates and grape-based products, ”he added.