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Viva San Giuseppe!

Fish, fried cardoons, peppers and eggs, pasta con sarde, fennel, fava beans, cannoli, sfinge, pizzeles, and so many more.

Nothing says the feast of St. Joseph like the traditional foods that many of us celebrate on March 19th each year. 

According to legend, a drought during the Middle Ages in Sicily destroyed most of their crops and many died of starvation.  The people prayed to St. Joseph and begged for help. In return they promised to celebrate his feast day by having special altars abundant in food. At midnight on March 19th the prayers of Sicily's children were answered and the earth was fertile again. Since the feast is celebrated during the Lenten season, the foods are meat-free.

Judging from the number of St. Joseph Tables held locally, the WNY community celebrates this traditional festival in a big way. Chef Mary Ann Giordano, the executive chef at the Creekview Restaurant in Williamsville, co-authored with her dad, “The St. Joseph’s Day Table Cookbook,” a loving tribute to her family and a book filled with recipes, prayers and customs handed down by generations of the Giordano’s.

Brenda with Mary Ann GiordanoHer father, a local psychiatrist and home cook, encouraged Mary Ann to write an all-encompassing book on the rituals and traditions of the feast. The foods come from modest ingredients and have some degree of symbolism: cross-shaped loaves of bread, fennel because it grows wild in Sicily and is used for healing, fried cardoons, essentially a wild edible weed. Would you believe sweets are popular because St. Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs?!

My mouth starts to water when I see the peppers and eggs, fried artichokes and best of all, the sfinge. Not exactly figure friendly but still a tradition worth keeping. Congratulations to the Giordano’s for compiling a book chock full of modern and traditional customs that have so many important ingredients: family, hope, the sharing of food and endurance.

Remember: Text Bites to 30930 for the latest column alerts by Brenda!

03/19/2012 1:44PM
Viva San Giuseppe!
As with so many celebrations, food is an integral part of the equation. I’d like to know your St. Joseph’s traditions and favorite dishes and how you celebrate this annual ritual.
03/19/2012 3:01PM
Mary Ann Giordano
thanks Brenda, looks great!! we will be at 3 Saint Joseph's tables tonight, Saint Andrews on Sheridan and Elmwood in tonwanda, st Lawerence on East delavan, wny lake erie social club 3200 South Park. Creekview Restaurant will also be serving Saint Joseph Specials
03/19/2012 5:36PM
Viva San Giuseppe!!
Hi Brenda, It is great to know there are so many still following the St. Joseph's Table traditions. Thanks for writing about it. Militello's Restaurant had our table yesterday. It was a wonderful day of food,family and friends including a special blessing of our St. Joseph altar by Fr. Jack from St. Joseph University Church. Wish there was a place we could post pictures here. It would be fun to see photos from St. Joseph's Tables arounf the area, Lisa and Bob's Citta di Militello 760 Wehrle Drive. 632-0500
03/20/2012 10:14AM
Memories of my mom
This brings back so many poignant memories, Brenda. My late mother made delicious pizzeles and we celebrated with family and friends every year for the Feast. Thanks for painting the picture--love your column.
03/20/2012 10:23AM
Did St. Joseph Eat This Much?!
I know it's an American tradition to eat our way through every holiday (and just keep eating every other day) but the patron saint of St. Joseph's Day has to be St. Crisco. There was so much fried food on my mother's annual table that we would have an oil slick on our street for days afterward. That's not to say that it wasn't delicious. Calamari, cardoons, 6 different kinds of fish, pasta with different sauces, loaves of bread... But the best - my favorite - were the sfingis, hot out of the fryer and sprinkled with plenty of powdered sugar. They were so airy that they would melt on your tongue like a snow flake, allowing you to toss them in your mouth like pop corn. It was a beautiful thing until the inevitable stomach ache kicked in. Cholesterol levels soared as my family essentially pumped gallons of saturated fat into their veins, but there has to be a place in heaven where Italians sit around a St. Joseph's table and eat to their hearts' content.
03/20/2012 4:00PM
Great feast today
What a feast at the Realty USA office in Amherst today! A fabulous variety of traditional dishes along w/ some other unique items were there for dozens to enjoy. They raised a lot of cash for charity too. Even Mary Ann was there signing books. Kudos to Miriam and her staff!
03/20/2012 6:19PM
baffled in beantown
What is a fried cardoon? Fava beans we all know. ;-)
03/20/2012 6:48PM
Don't know who St. Joseph is but....
I would certainly eat that feast in his honor! Us protestants missed out on that. tpo
05/27/2012 1:23PM
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