the Authentic Italian issue

St. Joseph’s Day is Monday, March 19 In the Middle Ages, Sicily was suffering from a severe drought, and the faithful prayed fervently to St. Joseph, the patron saint of the family, to end their suffering. When the rains finally came, a bumper crop of fava beans grew, saving the people from starvation. In thanks, Sicilians promised to honor and remember this great favor with altars adorned with food and erected each year in St. Joseph’s honor. The fava bean is an important part of the feast, and today the beans are both served at the altars in savory dishes and commemorated with dry “lucky” beans that are often painted gold and scattered around the altar. When Sicilians migrated to the Gulf Coast in the late 1800s, they brought the tradition of St. Joseph’s Day with them. The Altar American cities that have numerous citizens of Italian ancestry still celebrate St. Joseph’s day with altars. Many of these communities are in the Northeast, but no city has a stronger St. Joseph’s Altar tradition than New Orleans. There, the altars, at schools, churches and private homes, are open to the public for visi-

tation and sometimes feasting; any leftover foods from the altars are usually donated to charity. The altar is built on three levels, sym- bolizing the Blessed Trinity. It is traditionally stacked with elaborate breads, pastries, fish, flowers, fruit and fava beans. Lucky Beans Blessed, dried fava beans are often called “lucky” beans. They are typically spray-painted gold and scattered around the altar, where the faithful may take one for good luck. Lucky Lemons The lemon is a symbol of love and fidelity. Leg- end has it that a single woman looking to find a husband could increase her luck by obtain- ing a lemon from the altar. Wines, Grapes & Olive Oils These are reminders of the vineyards and olive orchards of Sicily. Wine bottles also rep- resent the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. Decorative Breads Elaborate baked breads depict St. Joseph’s carpenter’s tools and religious objects like the monstrance and cross, as well as images specific to Sicily including grapes, olives and

figs. These baked goods are available for order in our Bakery. Cookies & Cakes Decorated fig and sesame seed cookies and cantucci — hard, Tuscan, almond and fig biscuits — as well as cakes, are customarily served at the St. Joseph Altars, and they are often shaped in the forms of common Chris- tian symbols such as the cross and the fish. Artichokes Artichokes originated in Sicily, and both raw and stuffed versions are St. Joseph Altar mainstays. Find authentic Italian recipes for Roman artichokes, stuffed artichokes and more at Mudrica This “sawdust” honors St. Joseph the carpenter. Mudrica is typically a topping for pasta composed of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and herbs. Pasta Milanese Because St. Joseph’s Day always occurs dur- ing Lent, only meatless dishes are prepared for the evening feast. Pasta Milanese, a Sicilian seafood dish made with anchovies, is served dusted with St. Joseph’s sawdust, or Mudrica.

Because Saint Joseph’s Day always occurs during Lent, only meatless dishes are prepared. Much of the food is garnished with “sawdust” or bread crumbs, to honor St. Joseph, the carpenter. The “lucky beans” are also a mainstay on the Saint Joseph’s Altar.



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