Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily, By Matthew Fort

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The Independent Culture

Having been completely captured by Sicily myself when I travelled there two years ago, I can quite understand Matthew Fort's enthusiasm to get back to the island after a first visit 30 years previously. Because, as he points out in this wonderful travel tale interspersed with mouth-watering recipes, there is something not quite real about Sicily that is endlessly fascinating.

Perhaps it's the decaying African grandeur of Palermo, the gaudy tourism of Taormina or the Greek relics at Syracuse, but it does feel like an island in a book (it's said to feature in The Odyssey), one that couldn't possibly exist in real life.

Fort relishes the food markets, the slower, old-world pace of life, the authentic recipes that can produce miraculous meals from a few herbs and some pasta; even the Mafia history can't get Fort down. He does worry about the threat to individualism posed by the proliferation of supermarkets, and the flight of younger Sicilians to mainland Italy for better jobs – but then the sun comes out, wine is poured, there's all that food to eat and, along with the rest of us, he's as easily seduced as Odysseus by the Sirens.