Sit back, my dears, and let me tell you a tale. A tale of fig cookies and a meatless feast to honor La Festa di San Giuseppe (The Feast of Saint Joseph).
Here is my tale, conglomerated from wikis and blogs and cookbooks. I mashed them together and present to you this:
In the middle ages, Sicily was in the midst of a terrible drought. The Sicilians prayed to their Patron Saint, St. Joseph, father of Jesus. If he would please send rain, they would honor him with a proper feast. A true feast. A feast just for him.
You see, St. Joseph’s Feast Day falls during Lent. It is not a Day Of Our Lord. It is not a day that “trumps” the Lenten fast. He is a major Saint without major recognition.
When rain fell in Sicily, there was rejoicing. And, as they promised, they made a feast – but how to reconcile the Lenten season with the joyous feasting they promised their Saint?
A MEATLESS FEAST! Abstaining from flesh for Lent, while taking the day to enjoy food, and family, and health, and RAIN.
Over the years the same foods were served over and over on this Feast Day, always meatless, always delicious, always a Feast of thanks.
If you want to honor St. Joseph on March 19th, you can do your own meatless feast. Here are some of the traditional foods for La Festa di San Guiseppe that I could find:
– Figs, and Fig Cookies.
– Zeppole or Sfinge (hey, we just said meatless, not sugar-free). St. Joseph, bless his heart, is also the Patron Saint of Pastry Chefs (who, I suppose, had to make a decent Zeppole to prove themselves?)
Just as important as what you serve is how you serve it – the tradition of tavola di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Table or Altar) – his Feast is a buffet, an opening of hearts and tables to everyone, the wealthier hosting and being sure to include the poor and sick. As St. Joseph saved the people of Sicily, we can help feed those less fortunate.
It would be wonderful if you could invite someone to your table, or send some of the leftovers to someone who is sick or lonely. A donation to a food bank would be appropriate as well – a virtual St. Joseph’s Altar. I especially appreciate these element to the feast as giving to the poor is a focus of our Lenten season.