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.
Her 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.
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