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Food and wine

Sicily

In Palermo, his majesty the bread with spleen

You have to know something here: there is no chance that you will be on holiday in Palermo, or even just passing through the city, without someone offering you 'u pani c'a meusa, looking at you ruefully when you raise an eyebrow as soon as you hear the translation of the name of this very popular street food: bread with spleen.

It is a soft sesame bun, or cimmino as they say here, stuffed with calf spleen, lung and sometimes trachea, first boiled or steamed, then fried in sugna, or lard.
And that is exactly the scent you will smell as you stroll through the old town and through the city markets. 

1. A tradition dating back to the Middle Ages

Legend has it that the origin of 'u pani c'a meusa dates back to the Middle Ages, when Jews living in Palermo worked as butchers. Since their religious beliefs did not allow them to generate a profit from slaughtering animals, instead of money they received offal as a reward. These included the spleen, lung and trachea, which they began to season in lard and consume as filling for their sandwiches. 

2. It is also holidays comfort food

In Palermo, on the evening before the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on 7 December, it is traditional to eat the sandwich by buying it from the various street vendors, or from the famous focaccerie in the centre of Palermo.
These include the Antica Focacceria San Francesco, which dates back to 1834, L'Antica Focacceria di Porta Carbone, in Via Cala, and Nino 'u Ballerino in Corso Finocchiaro Aprile. 

3. Schietto o maritatu?

There are two versions for bread with spleen: schietto or maritatu.
The first involves adding lemon juice to the final result. The second involves a spread of fresh ricotta or shredded caciocavallo cheese. If you really want to go over the top, put both cheeses in. 

4. The alternative for vegetarians

If neither we nor the delicious smell coming from focaccerie and street vendors have convinced you, or if you are a vegetarian, fear not: there is no shortage of veg alternatives to street food in Palermo.
Try the panelle sandwich, made with chickpea flour, or the crocchè, typical potato croquettes cooked in hot oil, and you will be far from disappointed.

5. Home-made spleen bread

If, on the other hand, spleen bread has won you over and you would like to replicate it once you get home, here are some suggestions.
The loaves must be made of wheat flour with sesame on top. The proportions of offal should be three parts spleen, six parts lung clippings, one part trachea.
Cheese for seasoning should be fresh ricotta or mature Caciocavallo.

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