Wednesday, March 19th is a very special day for Italians because it honors the Feast of St. Joseph. One of the many places where St. Joseph is celebrated is Italy, and Italians all over the world also consider this day Father’s Day. Cherished for being dutiful, hardworking and dedicated to his family, Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of Sicily.
Sicily and St. Joseph
St. Joseph is revered by Italians, especially Sicilians. Back in the Middle Ages there was a massive and devastating drought in Sicily. Italians are known to be devoutly religious and a large part of their spirituality includes praying to saints. As the story goes, the good people of Sicily began praying to Saint Joseph to stop a massive and devastating drought by bringing rain, thereby allowing their crops to flourish once again. In return, they vowed to celebrate with a large feast in St. Joseph’s honor. Their prayers were answered and the Italians remained true to their word. They feasted on local foods such as fava beans, which thrived after the rains, as well as many sweets. Interestingly enough, the cattle during the time of the first feast were very lean and meat was not part of the festivities. Many Italian homes all over the world continue to celebrate this tradition.
Although the feast of St. Joseph usually falls in the middle of Lent, Sicilians, typically not known for restraining from pleasure, pay St. Joseph homage with light-as-air deep fried fritters, filled with a custard filling (think cream puffs) called zeppole. In Rome they call them bigne and in Naples they are sfingi. These special treats can also be found unfilled and sprinkled simply with sugar.
Celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph at the Market
In preparation of this special Italian holiday, E. 48th Street Market has all the ingredients and staples needed to help you celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph in your home. Customers can find the traditional fava beans as well as homemade traditional zeppoles. The Sicilian version is a fluffy batter squeezed through a pastry tube into a circle, fried in oil and then stuffed with a rich custard and topped with a cherry.
Zeppoles will be available daily from Friday, March 14th through Saturday, March 22nd. We recommend placing your orders early to avoid any disappointments and don’t forget your fava beans! Not only are they delicious and healthy for you, but tradition also states that placing a fava bean in your pocket or purse is good luck. Some shop owners also keep these beans in their cash registers to bring prosperity.