Thursday, September 13, 2007


I like these "whirly breads" or girelle, which can be bought, freshly made, at any bakery, salumeria or supermarket. Cut into pieces, one will go a long way. This one is flavoured with cheese, but other fillings such as sausage are possible.

A table without bread is unthinkable in Italy, and it will often be placed simply on the cloth, for you to break off the portions that you want. Or it will be served on a board, in which case, even today, it is usually the head of the household who cuts it.

The shaping of bread into decorative patterns is an ancient tradition and the Sicilians are masters at this. According to Mary Taylor Simeti, until quite recently, women kneading bread at home used to pause between each step to utter special prayers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, though, it was actually forbidden to bake bread at home here; this was because in times of famine governments wanted to ensure fair distribution. Therefore ovens in the home were regarded, until the end of WW2, as luxury items, and families used to take their prepared dough to neighbourhood bakeries, having "carved" their initials into it. I wonder if this explains the fact that so many shapes and varieties of bread are still made here by professional bakers ?

In Sicily, which is so fertile but which has also known so much poverty, bread was and is so venerated that within living memory, people believed that if they let any breadcrumbs fall from the table, they would be condemned forever, in hell, to sweeping them up with their eyelashes.

So when I cut into my "cheese whirly" at lunch time, I remember all this history and I am truly grateful to have been able to obtain it so easily.


jmb said...

This looks great WCLC. I love bread with cheese in it. Especially warmed or toasted so you can smell the cheese.
For some reason I have always disliked the fact that Italians put the bread directly on the cloth. I always want to put it on a plate or in a basket which I do, if I am setting the table. I'm sure they think I am weird.
Interesting facts to go along with our virtual bread, what more could we ask?

Lee said...

I love freshly baked breads and there are so many tasty varieties very tempting! I learned when Andrea was here with me just how much Italians love their bread!

Maria said...

Again you make me feel as if I can smell the bread coming from the oven! Bread and cheese.... what more do you need? Maybe a nice glass of vino or chianti???

Ciao Bella!

tooth fairy said...

An interesting bit of history! Beautiful picture of the bread - wish I could taste it!!

James Higham said...

I love bread torn from a half loaf on a board. The Sicilians know how to do it.

Ellee Seymour said...

I would certainly love to tuck into this, it looks really scrummy.

I wonder if you are a fish eater Welshcakes, do do not seem to write about fish very much. It is what I shall be eating this evening. I bought some lovely smoked mackerel fillets from Waitrose, and they were so cheap, but I can't get any more. Last night I had halibet poached with a tomato sauce, garlic and veg and tonight I shall have Scottish organic salmon, followed by blueberries. Are blueberries popular in Italy too?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I don't mind the bread being put on the cloth but I still don't like using the same fork for the first and second course! Hi, Lee - ah, yes, the famous Andrea! Ciao, M. Yes, what more can you want? Thanks, TF. Maybe you will one day! They certainly do, Sir James. Hi, Ellee. I'm allergic to fish, I'm afraid. I haven't seen blueberries here - whortleberries [mirtilli] are the nearest, I think.

Liz Hinds said...

Cheesy bread, oh yum. Bread is one of my favourite things.

The practice of a communal oven was very common in this country too.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Liz. Up to when were communal ovens used in Britain?


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