CELEBRATING SANTA LUCIA
(And Remembering My Little Nonna)
Santa Lucia was born in Italy in the year AD 283 and suffered the death of a martyr in 304 AD.
The Feast of Santa Lucia is celebrated on December 13th , the day of her death. Lucia, meaning light, Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind. In her paintings or her statues she is often depicted holding her eyes on a golden plate. I was always told that when she was martyred, her eyes were gouged out. However I have never been able to confirm that. But she is the patron Saint of Eyes.
In Italy there are special devotions to Santa Lucia (St. Lucy) and it is because of this devotion and tradition that her Feast Day continues to be celebrated.
In northern Italy, Santa Lucia arrives in the company of a donkey and sometimes brings gifts to good children in the night between December 12th and 13th. (No donkey or gifts ever arrived at my house in New York City! However there was Cuccia)
In Tuscany where my Little Nonna was raised, they ate boiled wheat on this feast day Some areas culled this Cuccia
My Little Nonna’s Mother’s name was Lucia (Vigliarri) and so when I made my Confirmation at the age of 6, I was asked by my Father to take that name as I was confirmed. I can remember a few years when I was little, my Little Nonna would make me Cuccia, sweetened and I think only with sugar, on that Feast Day. Our youngest daughter, Claudia, embraced that name at her Confirmation, but I am remiss as I have not made Cuccia for her. Cuccia is actually a Sicilian name and I remember, as a child, this dish only being called Cucci!
2 Cups Wheat Berries – after soaking
2 Lbs Ricotta – drained of excess liquid
½ Cup Sugar – or more to your taste
½ Tsp Vanilla
¼ Tsp Nutmeg
½ Tsp Cinnamon – optional
½ cup Milk – optional
Soak the wheat berries for two days making sure you change the water often. When ready to cook, rinse the berries and put in a covered pot, in slightly salted water, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 3 hours. At this point they should be tender but a little chewy.
Put the Ricotta, Sugar, Vanilla, Nutmeg and Cinnamon (if using) in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. If you like it thin add some milk. Taste and adjust for sugar. I remember it being thick so I don’t think my Little Nonna added milk. Add the Ricotta mixture to the wheat berries and stir in until all incorporated. This can be eaten warm or cooled. I remember eating it at lunch time and it was warm. Such a good memory. Think I’ll whip up a batch this year and share with Claudia.